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Harrisburg plans to organize, run Artsfest for 2020 event

A colorful scene at Artsfest this past May

When Jump Street announced it was shutting down, many Harrisburg residents wondered who would run the city’s beloved Artsfest celebration.

Now we know, as the city has opted to take the event in-house.

For 2020, Megan Roby, the city’s director of special events, will take the lead in organizing Artsfest, the long-running, three-day, arts-focused celebration along the city waterfront, said Mayor Eric Papenfuse.

“The city is taking on Artsfest for next year because no one else has stepped up,” he said.

Artsfest takes place in Riverfront Park each Memorial Day weekend, attracting more than 200 art exhibitors and vendors, as well as thousands of visitors. Several years ago, the nonprofit arts group, Jump Street, took over the event from long-time organizer, the Greater Harrisburg Arts Council. However, Jump Street now is dissolving.

Papenfuse said that adopting Artsfest, in its 53rd year, wasn’t his preferred option, but that he feared that the event wouldn’t happen otherwise.

“We can’t let Artsfest disappear,” he said. “It’s too valuable to the city.”

For one year, the city hopes to hire Melissa Snyder, the long-time executive director of Jump Street, as a consultant. To that end, City Council introduced a resolution on Tuesday night that, if approved, would pay Snyder $10,000 to help transition the event from Jump Street to the city. That amount breaks down to $50 per hour for an expected 200 hours of work.

“It’s a small consulting contract so that we have the institutional knowledge we need,” Papenfuse said.

Council is expected to discuss the resolution at a future work session before voting on the contract.

Papenfuse estimates the total cost of Artsfest to be about $100,000. In the end, he expects the city to break even from sponsorships and other event revenue.

The city already organizes the two other big summer events in Riverfront Park—the July 4 Food Truck Festival & Fireworks and the three-day Kipona festival over Labor Day. It also puts on such events as the Fire & Ice Festival in March, the holiday parade in November and the downtown New Year’s Eve celebration.

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