Since State College revolves around a major university, there is an endless amount of things to do every time of the year. However, there are a few events that you definitely need to know about and experience.
1. Art’s Fest
Art’s Fest is this awesome festival and art showing that brings super talented, eclectic artists to the streets of downtown in July every year. There are also pop up food shops, including kettle corn, my favorite, and a chocolate-covered strawberry stand that brings endless amounts of joy for $5. The vendors that come vary from super expensive scupltures to affordable jewelry and hand-made clothing and home decorations. Since I was a kid, our family tradition was to buy a new Christmas ornament from a booth every year and it makes for a great story behind a unique piece of art. Another plus is that after being empty for two months, students and alumni flock back to State College to enjoy some vacation time with art exposure mixed in. For that weekend, Happy Valley is filled with Penn Staters of all ages.
This sounds a little weird, but Trash to Treasure is basically a giant garage sale that happens in Beaver Stadium. At the end of the spring semester, students dump everything they don’t want to take home with them or things they just want to get rid of into bins outside of their dorms. There are also community donation points throughout town so the local residents can get rid of anything they want off their hands- clothes, furniture, books, etc. When I moved off campus into an apartment downtown, I had no furniture except for my bed that I took from my parent’s house. My first step was Trash to Treasure. There I bought my TV stand, night stand, vacuum cleaner, desk, two bookcases, some random books, a lamp, a microwave stand and iPod dock for $25. For everything. $25! With a little Clorox wiping everything looked great and I had a furnished apartment in less than two hours. The sale always happens in the beginning of May so if you’re still in town, make sure you go line up early in the morning to get first access to the best stuff. All proceeds go towards the United Way, so you’re spending money towards a good cause. The goal of the event is to eliminate too much waste ending up in a landfill. This was people’s “trash” becomes a new (cheap) “treasure” and prevents a buildup of unnecessary junk.
This is another community sale that happens in the beginning of May, right at the end of the semester. Imagine, rows and rows of books taking up an entire arena… Sounds like heaven right? Well to me, the journalist and English major, it does. It’s actually held in the Agriculture Arena where they have horse shows, livestock, sales and other general farm-like things. The books are used but cheap. Towards the end of the sale, they will have a half-price day where everything is 50% off, and then the best, bag day. On bag day, you pay $5 and can bring your own bag to fill with books. As many books as you can stuff in your bag, for $5! Every genre is there too and if you know what classes you’ll be taking you can grab some textbooks for really cheap.
4. First Night
State College celebrates the New Year in a big way. I’m talking eight feet tall ice sculptures along the street way. First Night includes midnight fireworks, local events like shows, dances, and other performances throughout downtown. The most famous aspect is the multitude of ice sculptures that line the streets of downtown done by talented artists. They actually close down Allen Street and display the sculptures for everyone to see and celebrate the New Year with. The “parklet” downtown, a little community park next to the high school football field, is home to the ice slide- a slide comprised entirely of ice for kids (of all ages) to ride down on a sled. First Night is a really cool tradition that brings the whole community to downtown State College to ring in the New Year.
5. Fourth Fest
Have you noticed a theme yet? State College likes to celebrate holidays in style. For the 4th of July, State College puts on a GIANT fireworks show completely choreographed to music that is consistently mind-blowing. The festival includes a 4th of July parade, a 5k race, a lumberjack competition, a giant American flag cake, an indoor amusement park (imagine a basketball arena filled with bouncy houses), and a carnival right next to Beaver Stadium. The main event is of course the fireworks. It’s the third largest annual fireworks show in the country and Travel Channel has named it as “one of the best fireworks displays in the world.”