A chilly breeze blew in from the Susquehanna River this morning, making it seem more like late April than late May.
That didn’t stop local officials from gathering in Riverfront Park to announce the city’s annual welcome to summer, Artsfest, which will celebrate its 52nd year over the long Memorial Day weekend.
The three-day festival, which begins on Saturday, will host more than 200 artists from across the country, with over 30 food vendors and a wide variety of local performers.
“It is an opportunity for people throughout the region to come and see the best of Harrisburg and all of the one-of-a-kind, award-winning festival features,” said Harrisburg Mayor Eric Papenfuse, who expects some 40,000 people to visit the city’s waterfront this weekend.
The festival will feature art in 16 categories ranging from paintings and photography to ceramics and woodworking. The Kunkel Plaza stage, located at the base of State Street, will host local performers, including the Troupe Hayati Belly Dancers, The Mighty River Band and Madison Ryan.
New this year, visitors are invited to contribute to a mural created by Lower Dauphin School District art teacher Dana Attivo and her students. The mural, which will be located near Kunkel Plaza, eventually will decorate the walls of the adolescent section of Psychiatric Institute of Pennsylvania, to help make the space more relaxing and colorful.
Local food vendors will serve a wide variety of cuisine at two different food courts. Visitors can enjoy such perennial favorites as Farm Show milkshakes, Bricker’s Famous French Fries and Sherri’s Crab Cakes, among many other food choices.
In addition to the main festival, Artsfest will include JazzFest at the Pine Street stage, sponsored by the Central Pennsylvania Friends of Jazz, Kidsfest featuring the Gamut Theatre Group’s Popcorn Hat Players and kid-friendly vendors, and the 21st annual Moviate Underground Film Festival.
Street parking will be free on Sunday and Monday, while Saturday will have free four-hour parking with the code LOVEHBG on the ParkMobile app. City Island will also have parking available for $5. For safety purposes, no bicycles or pets will be allowed at Artsfest.
Harrisburg is in the process of repairing the lower river walk, but the repairs will not affect Artsfest, as visitors are still welcome to stroll along the river, Papenfuse said.
In addition, the Harrisburg Senators will play on City Island this weekend, prompting Papenfuse to encourage attendees to combine Artsfest and a baseball game.
According to Melissa Snyder, executive director of festival organizer Jump Street, Artsfest highlights the importance of local artists, and she encourages locals to enjoy the creativity that the festival has to offer.
“Art tells the story of humanity and provides our cities with the life force to drive that creativity and those connections,” she said. “It adds character to a place. It builds connections with different audiences.”
Artsfest takes place May 25 to 27 in Riverfront Park, Harrisburg, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., on Saturday and Sunday, and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Monday. It is produced by Jump Street, a community-based, nonprofit organization that creates arts-based program development and helps bring art and artists into Harrisburg. For more information visit www.artsfesthbg.com.