It's Summer Fest Time!
By Emily Riden
In 1967, the Central Pennsylvania Festival of the ArtsTM was first introduced as a way to bring more of the arts to the area, marking the start of one of Happy Valley’s earliest summer festivals. Now more than 50 years later, ‘Arts Fest’ has not only grown exponentially, so has the lineup of festivals offered each summer throughout Happy Valley.
Today, whether your interests involve art, dance, music, wings, wine, fireworks, theatre or even blueberries, you’re nearly guaranteed to find something that you enjoy amidst Happy Valley’s chock-full lineup of festivals held each June to August!
From those that have been around for years to the newest additions to the festival calendar, here’s a look at some of the events to look forward to this summer!
Central PA Theatre & Dance Festival
Friday, June 21–Sunday, June 23 | centralpatheatre.com
Now in its second year, the Central PA Theatre & Dance Festival is an exciting, complete celebration of the performing arts featuring more than 100 events throughout the three days. When it comes to theatre, the festival offers something for nearly everyone, with the show lineup encompassing classical theatre, musical theatre, vaudeville, improv, circus acts, burlesque and more! The same holds true when it comes to dance, with showcases featuring both classical and modern ballet, jazz, tap, belly dancing and others.
The State College-based festival is not just about enjoying performances however; it’s also about trying your own hand at something new or improving your own talents and abilities.
“We have four brand-new intensives,” said Executive Director Cynthia Mazzant in speaking of some of this year’s new additions, added to an already existing lineup of workshops.“I have two New York City cabaret performers coming in to run their program; we have a comedy improv woman coming in from L.A. so that you could study improv with her for three days. We’ll offer burlesque with Sarah Mason, who is a local professional, and we’ll also have belly dancing with Shannon Bishop. It doesn’t matter what level you are, if you wanted to just come try your hand at something, there’s going to be a lot of strong one-on-one work as well as small group work. It’s three days of digging your hands in and playing and making art.”
There is still more though! With an aim at offering something for all ages, the festival is also working with the Schlow Centre Region Library on a special, mini-carnival event, and at the end of the days, the public is encouraged to join in the event’s community-wide dance parties!
“If you ever just wanted to learn to cha-cha, or foxtrot, or hip-hop, or ’50s swing, these are free events, so it really is about coming out, embracing yourself and realizing how much fun this is, and how art should be a part of everyday life!” concluded Mazzant.
Central PA 4th Fest
Thursday, July 4 | centralpa4thfest.org
For more than 75 years, the Central PA 4th Fest has brought Centre County residents together to celebrate America’s independence, and today, the festival features what the Travel Channel has called “one of the best fireworks displays in the world.” That’s not all though! The festivities begin at 9 a.m. with the running of the annual Firecracker 4k and 4m races, held on the Penn State campus, and continue with an Independence Day Parade through downtown State College to the Bryce Jordan Center at 2 p.m. A wide range of celebration activities, shows and entertainment then kick off at the Penn State Sports Complex at 4 p.m., leading up to the culminating fireworks display at 9:15 p.m.
WingFest at Tussey Mountain
Every Thursday night, July–mid-August | tusseymountain.com/wingfest
For seven weeks this summer, $5 is all you need to enjoy a night of live musical entertainment and wings from some of Happy Valley’s best local restaurants! Since its inception 18 years ago, Tussey Mountain’s WingFest has evolved into a wing competition decided by the public’s vote, with up to 30 restaurants participating and each guest receiving one ticket to cast their vote for their favorite wing vendor of the night. The winning restaurants from each of the first six weeks then return for one final face-off on the concluding night of the WingFest! But WingFest is also more than just chicken wings and sauce; State College Magazine previously voted the event the ‘Best Place to See Live Music’ in State College, and each evening also features additional food vendors and the opportunity to enjoy Tussey Mountain’s other activities including go-karts, mini golf, batting cages, and a skate park.
Central Pennsylvania Festival of the ArtsTM
Wednesday, July 10–Sunday, July 14 | arts-festival.com
Often referred to as simply ‘Arts Fest,’ this five-day festival is one of Happy Valley’s largest and most well-known events of the summer. With more than 300 of the country’s best artists setup throughout State College and offering a wide variety of fine art and fine craft, there is something to be found for nearly any art lover at the festival’s Sidewalk Sale and Exhibition.To see artists at work, you’ll want to check out the Italian Street Paintings on Foster Avenue or the giant sand sculpture in Sidney Friedman Park. From bluegrass to rock to jazz to gospel, Arts Fest also offers an impressive lineup of musical entertainment, as well as musical theatre, dance and comedy options throughout the week.
Other special events held throughout the week include the Children and Youth Sidewalk Sale on Wednesday, providing young artists with the opportunity to showcase their creative and entrepreneurial skills, and 5k and 10k races on Sunday morning.
People’s Choice Festival of Pennsylvania Arts & Crafts
Thursday, July 11–Sunday, July 14 | peopleschoicefestival.com
Since its inception 27 years ago, the People’s Choice Festival has grown into one of the largest and most family-friendly festivals in central Pennsylvania, with the 2019 event slated to host nearly 200 artists and more than 110,000 visitors. Held each year on the Pennsylvania Military Museum grounds, the festival features artists specializing in clay, fibers, photography, painting, leatherwork, wood carving, jewelry making and much, much more. While perusing the artwork, kids can also enjoy face painting, a bounce house and other activities, while adults can partake in the numerous local winery offerings available throughout the festival.
Blueberries & Bluegrass Festival
Friday, July 19 | mifflinburgpa.com/blueberries-bluegrass
Another of Mifflinburg’s exciting additions to the festival lineup, the Blueberries & Bluegrass Festival is a free community event open to the public from 6 to 9 p.m. at the Mifflinburg Community Park. The annual festival will feature music by The West End Bluegrass Band and will serve up blueberry pies, blueberry coffee cakes, blueberry cheesecake swirl ice cream and even blueberry whoopie pies. Additional food will also be for sale, so grab a lawn chair and come enjoy dinner, bluegrass and blueberry desserts!