By Joe Pinchot
Herald Staff Writer
For its 10th anniversary, organizers of the Hermitage Arts Festival wanted to do something special.
It appears the community also wanted to make this rendition one to remember.
The festival that runs 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday and noon to 5 p.m. Sunday in Rodney White Olympic Park, behind the city building at 800 N. Hermitage Road, will feature more artists and activities than ever before, organizers said.
Fifty-four artists are signed up, a good 10 more than officials are used to seeing. Officials will give away selected artwork along with an iPad Mini and a Brinkman gas grill, and fireworks will end the day Saturday.
“It’s an honor that we’ve been able to do it for 10 years,” said city Recreation Director Ed Chess.
“We’ve worked very hard and we appreciate how far it’s come,” said MaryEllen McKendry, who works with Chess to organize the festival.
The festival has grown slowly over its 10 years, but about half of the artists who will set up booths and sell their work at the festival appear every year.
“We had to find our niche,” McKendry said.
Susan Crisan of Sandpiper Soap Co., which makes handmade soaps and lotions, said she has appeared at the festival most years because it is a “positive” for the city.
“It’s a great way to showcase the talent in our community,” said Crisan, of Hermitage. “It’s always been a good experience.”
Chess and McKendry, who works directly with the artists, said they try to give the artists whatever they need to make their days a success, from feeding them coffee and doughnuts in the morning, providing water throughout the day and having volunteers ready to man the booths when it’s time for a break.
The artists have returned the favor by promoting the festival to other artists.
McKendry said there are so many things the artists could be doing over the summer, and other festivals they could attend this weekend.
The artists are asked for their opinions about the festival every year. In response to artist feedback, organizers last year moved the artists’ market to a different location, behind the Children’s Center of Mercer County. The area has more shade and the new setup made visiting between artists easier.
McKendry said artist and theater actor and director Sam Perry was instrumental in designing the new setup and making sure visitors flowed easily through it, she said.
Photographer Tom Darby, metal artist Donna Little, potter Chris Kuharick and painter Phil Myers sold the committee works at reduced prices, and Hermitage Home Depot donated the grill that, along with the iPad, will be raffled off at the festival.
The raffle is free and registration forms can be dropped off at any time Saturday. A coupon will run in Friday’s Herald. Hopefuls must be present at the drawing at 2:30 p.m. Sunday in order to win a prize.
Artist demonstrations both days will be presented by Kuharick and weaver Susan Dexter. Sunday, craft brewer Tom Amundsen, who will not be selling his product, will demonstrate the brewing process, and Alane Jewel will show belly casting.
The bulk of children’s activities are set for Saturday, with Pat Catan’s employees showing kids how to make painted tote bags and Hermitage Home Depot workers working with kids on wood projects. Milton Wilson will host a children’s drum circle; OH WOW!, the Roger and Gloria Jones Children’s Center for Science and Technology, will have exhibits; and the annual Chalk on the Walk promotes the work of the youngest artists.
Musical acts will include Makin’ Changes, Sound Bite, Sam Gianetti, FX Project and 2nd Avenue Project Saturday, and James Willaman Situation, Steve Vuich and the River Saints, Daddio and Mitch Nassar Sunday.
Registration for a 5K run Sunday starts at 7:30 a.m., with the race at 9:30 a.m.
Non-profit organizations will sell halushki, Penn State ice cream and typical fair food.
While McKendry is wrapped up in this year’s festival, she knows it will fall on the shoulders of the small organizing team to try to top this year’s festival and keep the event growing.
Crisan said there still are people in the area who do not know about the festival, and reaching them could be a goal.
Still, she is happy with the attendance, which Chess said is typically 750 to 1,000 people on a sunny day that’s not too hot. “We really do get quite a good group of people who come through,” Crisan said.
Information: 724-981-0800 and www.hermitage.net