Rick Bryant, who has been executive director for the Central Pennsylvania Festival of the Arts since 2005, said he doesn't think the annual, nationally-known festival will be impacted by the scandal that has unfolded at Penn State this year.
"Our whole town is impacted," he said. "But I think that people realize that the Arts Festival represents what is good about Happy Valley, and why they call it Happy Valley."
And from the beginning of Youth Day on Wednesday until the last performances takes place and vendors close up shop on Sunday, festival planners will do everything they can to ensure that the 2012 Arts Festival will make everyone happy.
Mirror file photo by Patrick Waksmunski
Penn State students Katie Pawelczyk (left) of Palm Desert, Calif., and Jill Armington of Springfield Township, Pa., look at contemporary abstracts by Philipsburg photographer Pat Little at the 2011 Central Pennsylvania Festival of the Arts in State College.
Bryant said people should be excited about opportunities new to the Arts Festival this year, including entertainment acts and workshops. The festival will also offer film screenings for the first time in "a long time," Bryant said.
In cooperation of Penn State University Libraries Special Collections Library, the 1929 film "Syncopation" will be screened at 3 p.m. Friday and 1937's "Varsity Show" will play at 3 p.m. Saturday, both at the State Theatre. The films star Penn State Distinguished Alumnus and Trustee Fred Waring, who was not only the inventor of the electric blender, but Bryant said was also "all media before Howard Stern."
Despite new attractions, annual features of the festival should not go unnoticed, Bryant said. The Sidewalk Sale, featuring more than 1,000 artists from across the country, was ranked third in the nation last year by Sunshine Artist magazine - a ranking based solely on feedback from artists.
If you go
What: Central Pennsylvania Festival of the Arts 2012
When: Wednesday through Sunday
Where: Downtown State College and Penn State University Park campus
Details: Buttons for admission to special performances can be purchased from several downtown businesses, at information and sales booths at the festival or at performance sites. They are $10 for adults and $5 for children ages 6 to 12.
Bryant said the Arts Festival fiercely competes with others in big cities.
"This is a place where artists want to come," he said.
Williamsburg-based potter Simon Leach will make his first trip to the Arts Festival this year, setting up at booth A-52 on Allen Street and hoping to sell handmade and painted functional art.
"It's always good to get out there and get a reaction from the general public on the things you make with your hands," he said. "It's very nice to have that interaction and receive that from the public."
Leach said he's visited the Arts Festival before, and knows it's "certainly a big affair." He said he hopes to find customers who are in the market for his pottery, which has "a bit more soul, a bit more character to it" than the plastic or commercial ceramics they will find at a home store.
"We've become so programmed with the modern way of living," Leach said. "With everything being so quick and instant ... sometimes people don't know what to make of it. But it requires a certain appreciation for these types of things. It's nice to have your bread and butter off of a handmade plate."
Providing people a way to slow down and relax is also a specialty for Americana roots rock band Big Leg Emma. Steve Johnson, guitar player and lead singer for the band, said they're excited to take the Shell stage at 7:30 p.m. Saturday after playing the festival last year but not earning such a prime time slot.
He added that around this time of year, the upstate New York-based band plays a different festival every weekend.
"We tend to stay outside all spring, summer and fall as much as we can," he said.
Big Leg Emma incorporates folk, bluegrass, country and psychedelic elements into their music, as well as rare instrumentation. Johnson said electric mandolin player Charity Nuse has been compared to Jimmy Hendrix on the instrument.
"That's what makes us unique from a lot of other bands," he said. "We don't fit into any genre."
Johnson added that the band enjoys providing uplifting, positive and high-energy music for festival crowds that will "get the booty shaking."
"That's what naturally comes out of us," he said. "We try to bring the best out of people at all of our shows, bring people together and dance."
Though there may not be any booty-shaking at their performance, Dave Harris, conductor for acclaimed community handbell choir The Raleigh Ringers, said the group certainly plans to bring something different from what people expect from the instrument when they play at 8 p.m. Saturday in Schwab Auditorium.
"We play such a variety of music, and we have a little fun with the rock and roll thing," Harris said, adding the Arts Festival audience will hear covers of "Bohemian Rhapsody" and "Don't Stop Believing" among other more classic handbell pieces during their performance.
"Our intent is to try to keep it light, try to keep it more like a pops concert where we will hit a lot of different things that people will recognize," Harris said.
The Raleigh Ringers have not played the Arts Festival since 1998, and Harris, a Penn State and Blue Band alum, said the group is excited to return.
The Ringers will also conduct a handbell workshop at 11 a.m. Saturday at the State College Presbyterian Church. Harris said the free workshop is for anyone interested in the instrument in any capacity.
"We start with the basics, and move through the different ways to make music," he said.
Bryant said the performance from The Raleigh Ringers is one of the most anticipated of this year's festival.
"They're [an act] that people stop me on the street and say 'oh my gosh, I can't believe you got that,'" Bryant said.
Mirror Staff Writer Beth Ann Downey is at 946-7520.