People’s Choice Fest opens July 12

BOALSBURG — The People’s Choice Festival of Pennsylvania Arts & Crafts offers great fair food, scenic beauty and musical performances ranging from a capella doowop to rock to an Elvis impersonator and belly dancers July 12 to July 15. The event will be held on the grounds of the Pennsylvania Military Museum.

Blair County band The Chrome Hearts from Hollidaysburg will make their first appearance at the popular all-Pennsylvania artists festival at 6:30 p.m. July 12 on the north stage. The night’s entertainment also features Rama-Lama, a doo-wop band, at 5 p.m. also on the north stage, said Chris Kepler, entertainment director at the festival. “HARPO is a regionally-known rock band that is only doing a couple of reunion shows; so they will be tremendously popular.

“Overall, (the festival) features 14 new acts, 16 performances appearing last year and this year, and 11 acts who appeared several years ago and are back again. I have 41 spots to fill and I try and mix it up so there is some music for everyone and bring people in,” Kepler said. “We had more than 80 acts apply. So many acts are good. It’s hard and very challenging to narrow it down.”

Among other entertainers are Brad Crum, an Elvis impersonator, appearing Sunday at 1:30 p.m. on the south stage and Black Cat Belly Dancers, 1 p.m. Saturday, north stage.

“Also tremendously popular is the Community Worship Service held Sunday at 10:30 a.m. at the south stage,” Kepner said.

All performances take place regardless of weather and acts appear on the north stage, which seats about 300 people, or the south stage which seats about 600 people.

“Our festival is committed to providing not only a venue for Pennsylvania artists but (provides) an opportunity for local nonprofit organizations to get information to the public regarding their missions,” Cindy Rockey, co-director of the Festival, said. “This year we are pleased to support our service men and their families. A Soldiers Hand is an organization which provides sunscreen and personal items to soldiers. Also participating, is The Pine Grove Mills VFW Auxiliary which provides assistance to veterans, their families and local organizations in need.”

Children will also enjoy the festival, Rockey said. “This is not just a festival for adults to see and buy art.” Families will enjoy “Center Court,” where children will find young artists selling their arts and crafts,; Ashburns Animal Rescue with a petting zoo; face painting will be provided by the State High Thespians, Jump This bouncy houses; Dominion Science Center, with hands-on science displays; Try Dye to make your own T-shirt; Kids Character Day, meet local characters and have a photo taken; Story Time and free book give away, and even the Oscar Meyer Weinermobile.

In keeping with the original intent of the festival’s founding 26 years ago, all bands, vendors and artists are from Pennsylvania. “We try and support our locals,” Kepner said.

One artist, who has participated all 26 years is caricaturist Chip Mock of State College.

“It’s my favorite show to do,” Mock said. “This festival exposes me to a lot of young people and company owners and often leads to future work at weddings and company parties.”

Many of his customers come year after year to be drawn.

“People show me through photos on their phone that they have filled their hallways and rooms with caricatures I’ve drawn of them over the years. I build relationships with people who attend.”

Part of the festival’s appeal, Mock said, is its scenic location.

“It’s such a fun festival and so easy to get around. People like the grass and being in the open space. The crowds are nice if the weather is good. I draw people who come from all over Centre County, from Altoona, Roaring Spring and beyond. I draw families and some have been bringing their children for years. (One) have been coming for 13 years.”

Mock began doing caricatures in 1980. While his drawing style has changed over the decades, he draws a caricature in 90 to 120 seconds — 2 to 2 1/2 times faster than most artists, he said. Often a crowd gathers because attendees like to stand behind him, watch him draw, see the likeness emerge and the subject’s reaction.

“My goal is to make the drawing look more like you than you look like you,” he said explaining he may exaggerate one feature. “When I start to draw I start with the nose — the nose is the center of the universe — it is usually the largest feature and leaves me more freedom and room to draw around it. I try to capture the sparkle in a person’s eye. If I can get the eyes to look like them it works,” Mock said.

Staff Writer Patt Keith is at 949-7030.

If you go

What: The People’s Choice Festival of Pennsylvania Arts & Crafts features 192 Pennsylvania artists, 27 concessionaires, 8 wineries, 13 specialty food vendors and 40-plus entertainers

When: July 12-15

Where: Grounds of the Pennsylvania Military Museum, Boalsburg

Cost: $5 for on-site parking

Info and Event schedule: https://peopleschoicefestival.com