People’s Choice hosts its annual festival in a new location
For the first time since 2019, the People’s Choice Festival of Pennsylvania is back with an in-person celebration. Now, with a larger site available for the festival, volunteers and vendors say the future of the event looks bright.
After spending nearly 30 years in its longtime location outside the Pennsylvania Military Museum in Boalsburg, People’s Choice has moved to the Grange Fairgrounds in Center Hall. This year, the spacious fields host 160 performers, more than 40 food vendors, nine wineries and a pair of live entertainment venues.
“The new location is great. It seems like there are more people coming and they’re excited to be here,” said festival volunteer Kurt Hutton. “Boalsburg was tighter. People were parking on the outskirts and had to walk, but it seems easier and maybe safer. Overall, the logistics are much better this time around.
On Saturday, Hutton manned the festival information table and helped sell merchandise to guests. He first volunteered for People’s Choice in 2018 and says community support has grown significantly since then.
“I was very excited to get back into it,” Hutton said. “I actually wanted to volunteer on Friday and Saturday, but we already had slots filled. That’s a good problem to have in today’s world.
Food vendors and craft tents surround the fields during this year’s festival. People’s Choice recruits artists from all over Pennsylvania each year to set up and claim their own booths.
Among this year’s performers is watercolourist Jane Wise, who first applied for entry in 2021 before the event was canceled. She said she was thrilled to finally join the People’s Choice lineup.
“I know it’s a new place, and it’s a really beautiful area,” said Wise, who lives in Lancaster County. “I think it’s well distributed and there’s plenty of room for vendors and entertainment. We had a solid, steady crowd and great weather.
People’s Choice was one of Wise’s first festivals since the COVID-19 pandemic canceled most events for the past two years. She says their return has sparked strong growth in support for art exhibits and community gatherings.
“People are just exuberant. Everyone wants to come out and support artists who have been hurt,” Wise said. “Every time I go out I do a little bit better. People get to know you and you build relationships that way. Festivals are a big part of that.
Self-proclaimed People’s Choice veteran Bob Weaver noticed an increase in sales as the events also returned. But on Saturday, the Westmoreland County freehand artist suggested some aspects of in-person festivals are worth more than the profits.
“At a festival, you can talk to customers and interact with them. It’s rewarding,” Weaver said. “Whether they buy something or not, you get something out of it. When I was home sketching all day and stuck inside it was a little depressing People’s comments go that far.
At his booth, Weaver smiled as he led potential customers through a tour of his booth, filled to the brim with black-and-white canvases of pop culture icons and sports heroes. He said the crowds at People’s Choice rivaled those he had seen in recent years.
While it’s clear many festival-goers turned out this weekend to support People’s Choice’s new location, Weaver expects support to continue to grow in the future.
“People get into certain habits, so maybe they got used to the other place,” Weaver said. “I’m sure it might hurt a little now, but the longer it stays here, it will become the habit. Support will grow over the years, that’s for sure.
Even in a new location, People’s Choice retains a loyal following. Perhaps no one knows that better than Jackie Esposito, who has attended every festival since the annual event began in 1993. She said she was happy to hear that People’s Choice had moved this time- this.
“It’s interesting, and it’s definitely different. Parking was definitely easier,” Esposito said. “This spot is very conducive to growth, which is great for the festival. There is room for the future. »
Esposito, who lives at State College, had previously visited the Central Pennsylvania Festival of the Arts and Way Fruit Farm’s Art in the Orchard before attending People’s Choice on Saturday. She was not surprised to see increased enthusiasm from crowds after the pandemic canceled many local events.
“People needed an outlet, and that’s why it’s important that these festivals are back,” Esposito said. “I was working at the (Arts Fest) information booth on Friday, and everyone who passed by was smiling. I don’t know if they knew why, but there was good humor in the air. Clearly everyone wanted to come back.
People’s Choice ends Sunday, July 17. The festival will run from noon to 5 p.m. on the last day. Parking is $6, but admission is free.
This story was originally published July 16, 2022 3:18 p.m.