The People’s Choice Festival celebrates its 30th anniversary

This story originally appeared in Center County Gazette.

CENTER HALL — The annual People’s Choice Festival of Pennsylvania Arts & Crafts will celebrate its 30th anniversary from Thursday 11th July to Sunday 14th July.

This year’s celebration marks an important milestone in the municipality of Center County. The festival, which began as a small local event, has grown into a Center County tradition, attracting over 110,000 visitors from near and far to celebrate art, music, food and more.

“Our festival provides the opportunity to shop from and celebrate quality Pennsylvania artists, and enjoy a family-oriented environment,” Amy Madison, People’s Choice publicity manager, said. “We think it’s important to stay in touch with the people who make things, to actually meet them and talk about their work. It’s so easy to order something cheap online but those objects don’t have the heart or the story of something handmade, like you get directly from the artist in your community, have it.”

The festival was founded in 1993 and has developed over the years. While the Boalsburg Military Museum grounds served as the festival’s home for many years, a sharp increase in rental fees for the four-day festival and the one-year contract offered by the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, which did not include the ability to host the event at the state-owned museum property after 2022, prompted the festival organizers to create a new home for the festival.

Since 2022the festival has made a new home at the Grange Fairgrounds in Center Hall, giving event organizers the opportunity to develop and improve what the festival offers.

“Although it wasn’t our decision to move, we slowly outgrew our previous site. Parking was especially tricky. The Grange offered a similar location just minutes away,” explained Madison. “It gives the festival a lot more parking, camping for families who want to make the festival a mini vacation and a central place in the state.”

The additional space allows the festival to include over 200 artisans, a wide variety of food vendors, live performances and activities for all ages. The festival aims to provide a platform for local artisans and showcase a wide range of handmade goods, from ceramics and jewelery to paintings and woodwork.

“We have always held high standards for our suppliers. We do not allow buy/sell suppliers and we judge our artists to provide the best PA has to offer,” said Madison. “We pay attention to detail to make the festival space easy to navigate , even for those with mobility issues. We’ve been offering shuttles to help people get around for years. We’ve always tried to make sure there’s something beautiful and affordable for everyone.”

Madison noted that support from sponsors such as Re/Max Center Realty and Stuckey Mitsubishi has helped the event flourish.

Parking for this year’s event is free for all visitors and is sponsored by Bath Fitter. In lieu of the previous parking fee, the event is requesting donations of nonperishable foods, which will be collected throughout the festival and donated to a local food bank at the conclusion of the event.

In addition to the artisans, a range of family-friendly activities will be organized for participants of all ages to enjoy.

“The children’s area will feature our youth sales tent – the opportunity to nurture future artists; Dominion Science Center – hands-on science for children of all ages; Simplicity’s Wonder World – a talented artist creating balloon creatures for the children; State College Access Church – providing face painting all four days. Last but not least, Center Entertainment with 75 feet of bouncy houses and slides,” shared Madison, noting that there will be two new special additions for festival-goers this year.

From 1 to 2 p.m. on Thursday, July 11, the Shavers Creek Environmental Center will host an Environmental Reptile Show, where children can learn about reptiles, amphibians and invertebrates. The second new event will be from 12pm to 4pm on Sunday 14th July by The Xerces Society. Using games and materials, visitors can learn about invertebrates and how to protect them and their environment.

A wide variety of concessions will be available, and for those attending 21 and older, 10 wineries will have tents to provide tastings of their products.

And to celebrate the 30th anniversary, a special 30th anniversary marquee will be set up, featuring memorabilia from the last three decades of the tradition.

“Thanks to our friends at State College Framing Company, we’re presenting a 30th anniversary tent, packed with memories from past festivals — photos and memorabilia,” Madison said. “We will be serving a very special 30th anniversary cake on Saturday at 2 p.m., provided by Delectable Delights of Center Hall. Attendees should stop by the information booth and pick up a commemorative 30th anniversary bag, sponsored by Fullington Tours.”

For more information on the People’s Choice Festival, see The Center County Gazette’s special edition inserted in the regular paper on Wednesday, July 3.

“We invite our many friends and families to come out to the festival to visit their favorite artists and meet new ones; enjoy free entertainment; enjoy great food; and have a relaxing visit away from the hustle and bustle,” Madison said.

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