Festing: Central Pennsylvania Arts Fest

Summer is here, and it’s festival season! This is one of our favorite times of the year as we celebrate everything from food to music to art.  Breakout the festival attire, and let’s get outside because festival season has officially begun!

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As Penn State alumni, we thoroughly enjoyed our years in the vibrant college town of State College, PA.  Downtown State College is located in Centre County and surrounded by the picturesque valley of Mount Nittany, forests, and farmlands.  The summer months were definitely our favorite time of year due to the fact that the majority of our 47,000 plus classmates migrated to their hometowns for the summertime.  The town is quiet, and life moves a bit slower during the summer months in State College.  However, when classes ended for us and summer came we didn’t want to leave.  Those years we spent as students at Penn State University truly made State College our (first) home.

The biggest weekend in State College during the summer happens each July when over 125,000 people travel to town for the five day celebration of the Central Pennsylvania Festival of the Arts.  Every Penn Stater knows this long-weekend affectionately as “Arts Fest,” and it is a great time to tour the campus and the town at its summer peak,  for reunions with old friends, and to celebrate the arts.  This year we celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Central Pennsylvania Festival of the Arts from July 14th -17th, and it was a fantastic long-weekend in Happy Valley.

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It’s hard for many people to believe that an art festival of this size takes place in a town made famous for its University’s football program, but throughout the town of State College and the Penn State campus you will find an assembly of over 300 vendors featuring outdoor sidewalk sales and exhibitions from artists and craftspeople who’ve traveled from all over to bring their goods to State College.  If you look carefully, each festival booth lists where the vendors are from, and you might be surprised to find someone from your home town or just how far these vendors have traveled to be here!

The main streets of downtown State College and the sidewalks of the Penn State Campus are overtaken by not only the vendors, but also the crowds that this beloved festival attracts.  Throughout the festival you will find one of a kind vendors featuring sidewalk street painting, unique sculptures, abstract photography, painting, hand-made furniture, and wearable art.  The lawns of Penn State and the side streets of State College are turned into pop-up stages for concert venues, temporary landscape installations, and even a children’s splash zone to cool off from the summer heat.

The Berkey Creamery is also a very popular destination during Arts Fest.  2016 year marks the 150th anniversary of the Creamery at Penn State, and they are famous for their fantastic and inventive flavors such as “Peachy Paterno,” “Scholar’s Chip,” “Chocolate Pretzel Crunch,” and “Death By Chocolate.”  We are pictured above with “Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough” and “Death by Chocolate” as we celebrated National Ice Cream Day which happened to fall on the last day of Arts Fest.

Not only can you enjoy a fresh scoop or cone inside the Creamery itself (or outside on the beautiful patio along Curtain Road), but you can also take home a gallon or two.  These gallons make great gifts for friends and family! The Creamery team will happily pack your ice cream in a freezer bag with the appropriate amount of dry ice (depending on the amount of hours you are travelling home).  If you are a graduate traveling to Arts Fest from out of town, the Penn State Alumni Association holds an ice cream social during Arts Fest weekend – this is not to be missed!

Bar tours are extremely popular throughout Arts Fest, and we’re not going to lie – this is what the majority of the visitors come to State College for.  When the sun goes down and the art is put away, everyone heads to their favorite bar(s).  If you think the streets are crowded with festival goers, step into one of State College’s famous bars and you will have a hard time finding a table – at least outdoors!  Outdoor seating at some of the best bars in State College is hard to come by this time of the year, but if your one of the lucky few to snag a table in the sun then cheers to you!

Each year we hold camp at an oversize booth in The Rathskeller.  It was our favorite bar while we were students at Penn State, and it still holds a very special place in our PSU-loving hearts.  It is by far the most unique bar in State College with its basement-like ambiance, bare-bones décor, and no-nonsense wait staff.  This is the simple (bar) life at its best where a bar is just a bar, and the food (since it shares its kitchen with the upstairs Spats Café) is some of the best you will find in downtown State College – as long as the wait staff gets your order right that is…

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We hope you get the chance to experience the Central Pennsylvania Festival of the Arts.  If you love festing as much as we do, this one has it all – art, music, AND food! We’d love to see you at Arts Fest in 2017, so mark your calendars for July 13th-16th, 2017!

Have you had the chance to visit Arts Fest in State College? If so, what were your thoughts? Are there any other summer festivals you’d recommend or would like us to write about? Let us know in the comments below!

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