52nd annual Blair County Arts Festival
Two days of live entertainment, art exhibits, crafts, food, fun
By Patt Keith
Live entertainment, student art and juried art exhibits, children’s activity area, and artisan food vendors will draw people to the 52nd annual Blair County Arts Festival a two-day event at Penn State Altoona, presented by the Blair County Arts Foundation.
The Blair County Arts Festival accomplishes two very important missions for the Blair County Arts Foundation, said Karen Volpe of Altoona, who has been involved with the event for decades. “It offers a venue for visual and performing artists and a gathering place for community members to share artistic experiences.”
The festival takes place rain or shine. “We’ve had years where it rained and it didn’t faze the crowds — they dress for it and still come,” she said.
“I think there’s something new every year at the festival,” Volpe said. “We offer the anticipated features like crafts, food, art, music. But every year, each of those things is a little bit different — which makes it a different experience. It’s art. It’s always new and fresh. Same things, new experience.”
The festival draws some people for the food who stay for the music. Others come to see the student art exhibit and stay for the food. Regardless of why they visit the festival, “it ends up being more impressive than what you came for,” she said.
“You could have been coming to the festival for the past 52 years and this year something — a song, a painting, a sculpture, a unique musical, a carving, a photograph, a dance — something — will tug at your heartstrings and strike a chord that makes it a new experience,” Volpe explained.
Continuous entertainment will be performed in five locations throughout the campus with 31 performing artist groups and solo artists. Genres represented include jazz, symphonic, blues, country, bluegrass, choral, oldies, modern rock, comedy, dance, folk, minstrel, West African and Celtic rock. Beginning at 1 p.m. on May 18, the full marching band from Altoona Area High School will present a concert on the portico of the Slep Student Center, in front of the reflecting pond.
Virtual Reality, a five-piece progressive jazz and funk group, is comprised of local jazz buffs playing music from the groups Weather Report, Spyro Gyro, Average White Band and Coltrane. It is comprised of Dave Villani on keys, Randy Rutherford on fretless bass, Bob Scholl on saxes, Josh Hillard on trumpet and flugelhorn and Paul Turner on drums.
A State College rock band Frackwater Jack will be playing the music of the Foo Fighters, Radiohead, Toad the Wet Sprocket, Toadies, Smithereens and more.
Two art exhibits will showcase the talent of area artists. The juried fine art exhibition will display the work of some of the area’s finest artists, in three different galleries inside the Misciagna Family Center for Performing Arts. An awards ceremony is scheduled for 4:30 p.m. May 19.
The student art exhibit, inside the Adler Athletic Complex, will include the work of students from 23 Blair County schools.
Free, hands-on experiences will be offered in the Children’s Village. Young people will be able to create and take home their own artwork, try various musical instruments in the Altoona Symphony Orchestra’s instrument “petting zoo,” face-painting and custom-made balloon art creations.
In the Crafts Village, more than 50 artisans will display their work and offer for sale paintings, jewelry, body products, candles, hand-sewn items, pottery, plus much more.
Festival guests will have the opportunity to find out more about the “We Can Do It!” World War II exhibit and events to take place in the area this summer. A traveling World War II exhibit from the Heinz History Center in Pittsburgh will be on display at the Railroaders Memorial Museum, as well as 27 community-wide World War II events, beginning in late May. The “We Can Do It!” tent will be located next to the Rotary Information Tent at the beginning of the Crafts Village.
The Festival Food Court will offer a variety of food cooked on the spot by skilled chefs and food artisans. Festival guests can enjoy everything from funnel cakes and other unique pastry items to ethnic food, hand-cut french fries, Penn State Creamery Ice Cream and other festival favorites like sausages and cheese steak hoagies.
Mirror staff writer Patt Keith is at 949-7030.