Blair County Arts Festival celebrates 50 years

Vanessa Orr

Art exhibits, performing arts, and food are all on tap at the 50th Blair County Arts Festival.

Event features art, music, dance, and even dippy pizza

Back in 1964, a small downtown arts festival was held in the Mishler Theatre in Altoona, Pa. Three years later, it was moved to Penn State’s Altoona campus, and as they say, the rest is history.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Blair County Arts Festival at Penn State Altoona, and it has grown in size, as well as attractions.

Art exhibits, performing arts, and food are all on tap at the 50th Blair County Arts Festival. 

“I’ve been the festival coordinator for the past 20 years, and I have to say I’m really excited about this year!” exclaimed Karen Volpe. “There’s so much positive energy; there’s something really special about being part of a milestone. Fifty years is golden!”

The anniversary celebration, which will be held May 20–21, will include art, music, dance, exhibits, children’s activities, crafts, and food.

“We’re going to amp up all of the traditional things we have. We’ll have more crafts and more variety, and you won’t believe all of the different foods that our vendors are bringing, from funnel cakes to sticky buns to gourmet grilled cheese, blooming onions, and even something called dippy pizza,” said Volpe.

In addition to the visual art exhibits, entertainment will be found all over campus. Live music will be performed by the region’s best bands, such as Felix and the Hurricanes, as well as high school bands, orchestras, and choirs. Students from local dance academies will perform, and an improv group will encourage audience participation.

 

Two art exhibitions

Two of the biggest attractions will be the Juried Art Exhibition in the Misciagna Family Center for Performing Arts and the Student Art Show in the Slep Student Center.

“People rave about the talent of our region’s artists,” said Volpe. “I know a number of people who come specifically to add to their art collections. And, the talent of our student artists just blows me away — it makes me realize that the future of the arts in our community is in very good hands.”

That arts community includes music.

“Every time you turn a corner, you’re going to hear music,” said Volpe, of the 36 performers who will play over the two-day weekend. “We’re even having the 28th Infantry Division Band play on Saturday, which is Armed Forces Day, in honor of our veterans and those who serve.”

On Sunday, US Sound Theatre will wrap up the festival, which for some people will be a blast from the past. “The group was formed in 1974, and they don’t perform together anymore, but they’ve reunited for our 50th anniversary,” said Volpe.

In homage to the festival’s ‘60s start, volunteers will wear tie-dyed shirts with the logo “Peace, Love and Music.” Children in Sheetz Children’s Village will be making paper dresses and flower wreaths to wear in their hair — a popular style back in the day.

While the festival is free, parking is $5 per car per day, with the money raised going to support the historic Mishler Theatre.

 

Before you go:

Arts Festival: blaircountyartsfestival.org

Blair Co. Tourism: explorealtoona.com.

 

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