Arts Fest Children & Youth Sidewalk Sale returns to State College

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Olive Hollis, 11, has been going to Arts Fest for as long as she can remember. But instead of walking down the street as a customer, this year she was behind a booth.

On clothespins above his booth hung his “Llamadoodles,” sketches of llamas with giant ice cream cones, balloons and more. Olive has always enjoyed doodling but has found drawing as an outlet during COVID. When her mother told her about the upcoming Arts Fest, Olive signed on.

“I needed pocket money and I really, really loved drawing,” she said.

Olive said she wanted to be a lot of things when she grew up, including an artist, so she thought the festival would be a good experience for the future.

The Central Pennsylvania Arts Festival, which kicked off with Children and Youth Day on Wednesday, is being held in person for the first time in two years due to the pandemic. Meanwhile, children in central Pennsylvania practiced their craft and learned new ones.

Children aged 8 to 18 set up stalls on Allen Street for their sidewalk sale, displaying jewelry, slime, paintings and more. They run the whole operation, talking to customers, setting prices and handling money, under the supervision of their parent or guardian. Some sellers were returning after a two-year hiatus; for others, it was their first time behind the stand.

Bernadette Cate, 10, started making suncatchers and beaded jewelry at the start of COVID-19.

“I’ve been making bracelets since 2020,” she said. “When I discovered Arts Fest, I thought, ‘I should do this.’ ”

Although unable to sell her jewelry in 2020 and 2021, Bernadette continued to manufacture. Her mother, Leandra, said she was proud of her daughter’s growth and perseverance over the past two years.

“Despite the delay, she kept her enthusiasm and interest in doing it,” Leandra Cate said. “She was 8 when she decided to do Arts Fest, and we finally got to do it.”

Sharon Frazier, who has organized the children’s and youth sidewalk sale for 25 years, said seeing the community come out for the event on Wednesday was “incredibly uplifting.” A key part of selling is the sense of independence young artists gain from selling their crafts, she said.

“It’s validation for them, someone comes in, admires their work, then pays it and transports it,” Frazier said.

The artwork sold this year has also evolved, Frazier said, with stalls offering more sewing, beading and upcycled items than in previous years.

“I think they had more at their tables because they had more time to develop it and I think their art grew in two years,” Frazier said. “I think this year in particular the quantity and quality was just phenomenal.”

Although the kids had two years off, some, like 14-year-old Connor Meehan, were only selling their newest designs. Connor sold his works at the festival in 2019, shortly after he started drawing.

“My drawings back then weren’t the best and my style has since changed,” he said. “I had made a few to prepare for the other Arts Fests, but never used them.”

It was the first Arts Fest experience for 12-year-old Emma Larrabee. She decided in March to set up a stand selling her polymer clay earrings. Emma’s art is influenced by a wide variety of subjects and her jewelry reflects this, from miniature creations based on Van Gogh’s “Starry Night” to detailed vignettes of orange trees and “Stranger Things” inspired graphics.

Although some sellers said they would put their money into savings, others had big plans for their profits. Aria and Daphne Davis, who sold their handmade potholders, said they were saving up to buy a blue parakeet or a cockatoo.

This story was originally published July 13, 2022 5:29 p.m.

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Keely Doll is an education reporter and service reporter for the Center Daily Times. She previously worked for the Columbia Missourian and The Independent UK.

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