Greater Harrisburg's Community Magazine

Harrisburg’s Kipona Festival will take place this year, though changed due to the pandemic

A fire-eater and wire-walker performed last year to promote the 2019 Kipona Festival.

How is it almost August already? The end of summer is just around the corner.

What the beginning of school and the fall season will look like during the pandemic remains uncertain. However, Harrisburg’s end-of-season festival, Kipona, will return, though in a substantially altered format.

The event will span for three days over Labor Day weekend, as usual, but due to the COVID-19 crisis, only one day, Saturday, will feature in-person events. Saturday through Monday will feature virtual activities.

“It will still be a very nice event,” Mayor Eric Papenfuse said. “You will still be able to see and take part in all your favorite activities.”

Kipona has taken place in Harrisburg for over a century and serves as a celebration of the Susquehanna River and its impact on the city. In the past few years, around 70,000 people have attended Kipona.

“It’s a time for people to come together and appreciate the sparkling water of the Susquehanna,” Papenfuse said.

On Sept. 5, there will be 15 food trucks parked on City Island from 3 to 8 p.m. At night, fireworks will shoot off from City Island.

People are encouraged to enjoy socially distanced picnics along Riverfront Park or City Island. Masks are required in the food truck area.

Front Street will be shut down for the event on Saturday. Parking is $5 on City Island, $10 from 5 to 10 p.m. at the River Street Garage and $10 at the Market Square Garage.

Some traditional events, like the canoe race, may not happen this year. However, others will be streamed online, possibly including the rubber duck race and Native American pow-wow.

While marketplace vendors will not set up in person this year, people can shop an online marketplace of handcrafted items on all three days. Local musicians will perform virtually, and there will be artisan demonstrations as well as children’s activities.

The annual event is sponsored by Visit Hershey & Harrisburg, Explore HBG and the Harrisburg Downtown Improvement District, among others.

The city’s Artsfest and Fourth of July festivals also had to change plans earlier this summer due to the pandemic. Artsfest went fully online with a virtual market and demonstrations, while Independence Day maintained an in-person food truck experience, but halted musical performances and other activities.

“We are building on what we saw as the success of our Fourth of July celebration,” Papenfuse said. “We took that format and are going to do it again for Kipona.”

Harrisburg’s Kipona Festival will take place Sept. 5 to 7. The live food truck and fireworks event is Sept. 5 from 3 to 8 p.m. and virtual activities are from 12 to 8 p.m. on all three days. For more information, visit http://harrisburgpa.gov/kipona-2/.

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