Summer songs: Legend, The Roots to headline music festival; more acts to be announced

Courtesy photo/ R&B singer and multiple Grammy winner John Legend’s current hit is “Love Me Now,” with Chance the Rapper and Miguel.

CENTRE HALL — Two Central Pennsylvania natives are hoping to put the area on the summer music festival map with a three-day, multi-stage event in July featuring headliners John Legend and The Tonight Show’s house band, The Roots.

“There is a void in Central PA for a major event, and we wanted to create something we could share with the community that we love so much,” said Kaleena Rallis, who along with her brother, Paul, are co-founders of Karoondinha Music & Arts Festival.

The festival, which promises to have more than 80 artists, is scheduled for July 21 to 23 at Penn’s Cave & Wildlife Park near here, where the Rallis siblings grew up in the family that still owns the 1,600-acre park. They left the region for successful professional careers in Los Angeles and New York, and started planning the festival two years ago.

“This is exciting for any festival-goer and music lover in Central Pennsylvania,” said Bernie Punt, who, as marketing director for the Bryce Jordan Center in University Park, has booked hundreds of musical and other events. “There are festivals in Scranton, Philadelphia; you’ve got some in Western PA, but nothing in Central PA.”

He noted that a number of fairs in the region are known for bringing in big-name talent, including the Clearfield County Fair and Centre County Grange Fair.

“But that’s not sheer music,” Punt said. “This is a pure music festival. If it gets some legs going, it can only grow from here. Coachella started small. Bonnaroo started small.”

Punt was referring to two well-known music festivals, the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival in California and the Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival in Manchester, Tennessee.

Some initial criticism when Karoondinha was announced two weeks ago was the price of the general admission ticket: $250. But the organizers said that is less than what many festivals charge and includes camping at the site, and you likely can’t get concert tickets to Legend and The Roots for that price.

Coachella, started in 1999, already has sold out of its $399 tickets to its three-day festival in April; that one includes Lady Gaga and Kendrick Lamar. Bonnaroo’s general admission ticket for four days of music in June goes for $350; its headliners include U2, Red Hot Chili Peppers, The Weeknd and Chance the Rapper.

To accommodate locals, Karoondinha organizers are offering a limited number of discounted general admission passes to residents of Blair, Cambria, Centre, Clearfield, Clinton, Huntingdon, Juniata, Mifflin, Snyder and Union counties. Those $150 passes don’t include on-site camping, but they provide for free shuttle and off-site day parking, according to a Karoondinha press release.

In addition to Legend and The Roots, the first wave of 50 artists already announced includes Odesza, Chromeo, Maren Morris and X Ambassadors.

“A lot of up-and-coming artists,” noted Punt. “A couple are well established.”

Paul Rallis promised a lot more.

“We have another 38-plus to announce on or about March 20,” he said. “There will be more headline names. You’re going to be so excited, you won’t be able to handle it.”

Kaleena Rallis said the festival is family friendly, although alcoholic beverages will be sold there by a local nonprofit foundation, and a limited amount can be brought in.

“We want this to be all-inclusive, so people of all ages could come,” she said. “We’ve been very selective in the artists we picked. There’s something for everyone in the family to enjoy.”

Additionally, festival-goers will be able to enjoy daily workshops, gourmet food, wildlife and explore Penn’s Cave and other amenities on this “land of shining waters,” or “Karoondinha” as named by the Seneca Tribe. (It is pronounced ka-roon-din-ha).

“We wanted a name that was more than just … Penns Valley,” Kaleena Rallis said. “The meaning of the name is very nice, the land of shining waters.”

She has worked in the entertainment industry for over a decade, including at Warner Bros. Studios and Paramount Pictures, and today owns her own talent-management and production company called The SILLAR Co. in Los Angeles. Her brother has worked in the architectural/design industry for more than 10 years, mostly in Los Angeles.

Both grew up with music, Kaleena with the Altoona Community Theatre and others, and Paul with his own local radio show.

“Music has very much been a part of our family,” she said.

Penn’s Cave has experience hosting major events; it is home to the biannual Nittany Antique Machinery Show. A Karoondinha press release says that event averages more than 40,000 attendees per weekend.

Paul Rallis said the music festival would be comparable to the tractor show, but he declined to provide an estimate on how many tickets organizers think they will sell.

They told the Board of Supervisors for Gregg Township that they expect about 20,000. Other details provided from a meeting of officials and festival organizers include: About 200 employees will be hired for security, including mounted patrols around the perimeter; the entire festival area will be fenced; a temporary hospital will be on site; and, quiet hours will be observed, among other details.

Paul Rallis said he planned to finalize permit applications soon, although he had not submitted any documents to the Penns Valley Code Enforcement Agency as of Tuesday, according to zoning officer Mike Lesniak. Permits for stages, structures and electricity need to address safety and other concerns, Lesniak said.

Lesniak said he personally opposes the musical festival next door to his own personal property and thought the Grange Fairgrounds would be a more “prudent” venue. But he said he will keep his personal opinions out of the permitting process.

One member of Gregg Township’s Board of Supervisors, Douglas Bierly, acknowledged that some locals oppose the music festival due, in part, to heavy traffic, but he sees some benefits.

“It should be good for business in the area,” he said. “This has never been here, but I don’t expect there to be any real problems.”

He said organizers have addressed a number of details and that his board doesn’t “have the means to stop it anyway because it’s on private property.”

“The folks that are having it … want to do a good job and they want to make sure it’s done right,” he said.

Mirror Staff Writer Cherie Hicks is at 949-7030.


If you go

What: Karoondinha Music & Arts Festival

When: July 21-23

Where: Penn’s Cave & Wildlife Park, near Centre Hall

Admission: $150 for locals, $250 for general admission

Tickets/More info: