Through art comes expression, and this year's Blair County Arts Festival has a lot to say.
The 46th annual festival, presented by the Blair County Arts Foundation, will take place May 18 and 19 on the Penn State Altoona campus.
The theme of this year's festival is reflections, arts festival coordinator Karen Volpe said. Organizers of the Blair County Arts Festival want to host a celebration reflecting the soul of a community through the sharing of art, a press release said.
Mirror file photos
(From left) McKennah Rabel, Haley Rabel and Bella Newman, all of Hollidaysburg, and Emma Reed, of Altoona, stop on the Penn State Altoona lawn to enjoy some food at last year’s Blair County Arts Festival.
Barbara Hampton, visiting from Alburn, Calif., looks over the photography of exhibitor Nancy Laird at last year’s festival.
Parking and vendor fees collected over the two-day event benefit the historic Mishler Theatre, Volpe said.
"It's a gem and we need to keep it open," she said. "[The arts festival is] a double mission.... It is a major fundraiser for the Mishler, but it's also part of our mission to present and to ensure that we have a strong vibrant arts community. And it's a celebration of the arts actually. Artists and art lovers all come together at the campus."
Thirty performing artists, including the student music showcase, which welcomes music ensembles from different school districts, will perform, Volpe said.
If you go
What: The 46th annual Blair County Arts Festival
Where: Penn State Altoona
When: Noon to 8 p.m. May 18, and noon to 6 p.m. May 19
Cost: A $4 fee to park a vehicle per day at the campus benefits the historic Mishler Theatre
Details: For a complete schedule of festival times and locations, look for the special arts festival section in the Altoona Mirror Thursday or visit http://mishlertheatre.org. Additional copies also will be available at the festival's information booths. For more information, call 949-ARTS.
Performing artists will include regulars such as Your Dad's Friends and newcomers such as the Pure Cane Sugar Band based out of State College and The Hawks Blues Band from the Altoona area.
The Hawks Blues Band's bassist Jim Colyer said the festival offers the four-piece band an opportunity to play for people who might not hear them otherwise.
"We're really trying to get our music out to young people in the area," he said. "[It's] another venue that's outside of the typical bar/tavern environment. More people can hear what we're doing."
The Pure Cane Sugar Band, featuring three-part female harmonies, is thrilled at their invitation to play the festival for the first time, vocalist and guitarist Kate Twoey said in an email.
"Our favorite time of year for performing is when we get to come to festivals such as this where we can play outside amidst the sights and sounds of people enjoying the summer and the arts," she said.
Live entertainment will take place continuously throughout the weekend in five locations, Volpe said.
"So wherever you are on the campus, chances are you're going to hear music," she said.
Musical headliners also include Beatle Maniacs, Jerry Haines, Jay Smar, Tree the band and Flight 19.
The performing arts are not the only attraction.
The festival's crafts market will have more than 70 vendors.
"It's a variety, but they're all hand-crafted items. ... Things you can't find in a store a lot of times, you'll find at the arts festival - everything from jewelry to musical instruments and pottery, every imaginable type of hand-crafted item really," Volpe said.
The Sheetz Children's Village will offer hands-on art activities thanks to organizations such as Big Brothers/Big Sisters providing supplies and volunteers who guide craft projects.
A popular attraction is the Altoona Symphony Orchestra's instrument petting zoo inside the Imagination Music Station tent, Volpe said.
"Members of the symphony orchestra help children try out all these different instruments and show them how to get a sound out of a tuba or a violin," she said.
In the nearby Misciagna Portico Performance Tent, entertainment geared toward family and children will take place, Volpe said.
Hubie The Clown will be on hand periodically to create balloon art, and face painting will also be available.
The student art exhibit is a popular attraction, Volpe said.
"I think we're representing like 29 different school buildings this year. And art teachers select a representation of the artwork that's been done throughout the school year and it's displayed in the Adler gym," Volpe said. "That's always a really cool thing to watch this gymnasium kind of transform into this museum of art and people are always amazed. They always ask our volunteers in there, 'These are students? These are kids?' It's so good. And they want to purchase it."
A juried fine art exhibit also take place with prizes awarded, Volpe said. The crafts market will also have items judged.
Also popular is the food, which includes traditional festival eats such as funnel cake, kettle corn, and "all that good stuff," Volpe said. "As soon as you come on to the campus, you can smell it."
Volpe believes the festival is an event area people "really should take advantage of. It's like going to an art museum and taking in a free concert and strolling through a crafts market, all in one place and it's so beautiful at the campus too. ... It's kind of conducive to the arts and the ambience of the arts."
Mirror Staff Writer Amanda Gabeletto is at 949-7030.