Festival will support local ‘makers’

Downtown business owner Stephanie Hite constructed a market for the soaps and lotions she makes for her Trade Secrets store on 13th Avenue by setting up as a vendor at events like the Blair County Arts Festival — where artists and artisans can get exposure for their goods.

Based on a suggestion from Hite, she and three other women with downtown business interests have fashioned their own event centered on Heritage Plaza for “makers” in the region to showcase their goods.

The organizers of Cre814 Fest — it’s pronounced “Create-one-four,” a melding of Create and 814, the area code — expect 50-plus vendors Saturday, selling only products they make themselves, according to Clay Cup owner Sarah Vogel, who has partnered with Hite, Jennifer Hrivnak, who’s planning a

Joos location downtown and Stephanie Trude of 1211 Catering.

There will be musicians performing their own music, comedians telling jokes they’ve composed, metal workers selling their own sculptures and jewelry makers with pieces they’ve fashioned.

Knitters, people who crochet, bakers, makers of jerky, woodworkers and face painters will also be involved, Vogel said.

The organizers hope this will be the first of many such events, and they hope that as they take place, their geographical imprint will expand, even to the edges of the area code — which extends in a widening swath from the Maryland border to New York state.

“It’s a big region, but we’re starting small,” Vogel said.

Other than the hope of expansion, plans are not definitive, according to Hrivnak.

“I think we’re open to what this (may) turn into,” she said.

Money earned will go into a “microgrant” fund to be distributed — after the group incorporates — in amounts of a few hundred dollars each to help artists and artisans “with the next step,” Vogel said.

“We’re not trying to make money off this,” she said.

The group started with a vendor list of Hite’s, which was a basis for recruitment of participants, according to Hrivnak.

“I think (the fair) is a great opportunity for startup businesses to gain more exposure,” said Patrick Miller, CEO of the

Greater Altoona Economic Development Corp.

“I think it’s really cool,” said Mayor Matt Pacifico.

Saturday’s event reflects the high percentage of “makers” among the startup businesses that has helped downtown rebound in recent years, according to Steve McKnight, CEO of the Altoona Blair County Development Corp., writing in a recent online post.

It also illustrates that while economic developers can “plan, push the vision and ensure there are relevant resources in place, in the end, only the business owners, investors and risk takers can make it happen,” McKnight wrote.

Mirror Staff Writer William Kibler is at 949-7038.