Salisbury Press

Thursday, September 19, 2019

Pa. Music & Arts Celebration back at Allentown Fairgrounds

Friday, May 24, 2019 by KATHY LAUER-WILLIAMS Special to The Press in Focus

The Great Pennsylvania Music & Arts Celebration returns with its focus on veterans and music with local roots, May 25-27, Allentown Fairgrounds.

Highlighting the second annual festival is veterans-related programming Memorial Day, including “The USO Tribute Show,” featuring Bob Hope impersonator Bill Johnson, and Michele DelaFave, who performed with Hope on his USO tours in Vietnam and was one of The Golddiggers dancers on “The Dean Martin Show” TV show (1965-1974).

“We think it will be a big draw,” says festival executive director Carole Gorney. “We want to put ‘Memorial’ back in Memorial Day by remembering the men and women who have served and died in the U.S. military.”

Organizers of the free festival, which debuted for the Memorial Day weekend 2018 in and around the Agri-Plex, Allentown Fairgrounds, says the event attracted 10,000. This year, the festival has themed music days, more food and more activities for children.

“Music is always our strong suit,” says Gorney, who says there will be 50 performers providing “non-stop music at the festival.”

Performers include percussionist Hector Rosado, gospel singer Kari Holmes, drummer Moe Jerant, blues-rock band Craig Thatcher, folksinger Dave Fry, nostalgic Swing Time Dolls and Allentown’s own bands, The Municipal Band of Allentown and The Allentown Band.

There will be three stages, two, including the main stage, inside Agri-Plex, and one under a large outdoor tent.

Gorney says Saturday will have a rock theme with headliners TimeWhy?s and Flamin’ Dick and the Hot Rods. She says there will be a parade of Wheels of Time custom cars and street rods, which will be on display. During the Flamin’ Dick concert, there will be a Sock Hop dance competition promoting “Socks for Veterans.”

Gorney says the mission of the festival produced by Pennsylvania’s Music Preservation Society, is to preserve Pennsylvania’s distinct forms of music. Festival performers have roots in Pennsylvania and reflect the state’s diverse musical genres.

Sunday’s musicians reflect that diversity with headliners Kari Holmes and Hector Rosado y Orquesta Hache, as well as polka music and the Rock Youth program.

Memorial Day features the “The USO Tribute Show” with DellaFave, Johnson and Holly Faris.

Bob Hope became famous for entertaining American troops during four wars from 1941 to 1991. Las Vegas Bob Hope impersonator Bill Johnson recreates the comedian’s trademark rapid-fire wisecracking as part of the tribute in a Vietnam-era USO show.

DellaFave accompanied Bob Hope on USO tours of Vietnam and other parts of Southeast Asia for the comedian’s annual NBC-TV Christmas shows.

Faris, who has been featured on NPR, “Celebrity Apprentice” and “Good Day New York” impersonates Phyllis Diller, Marilyn Monroe and Lucille Ball in the show.

At 3 p.m. Memorial Day, the festival will observe the National Moment of Remembrance.

Gorney says new this year is an outdoor food court with six stands and lots of seating at umbrella tables.

The food court will offer 50 different items of food, including Cajun food, South Philly favorites, barbecue, seafood and desserts like funnel cakes.

There also will be food inside the Agri-Plex. Beer will be sold to those 21 and older.

Also new this year, there will be artists displaying and nonprofit information tables inside the Agri-Plex.

Gorney says the Artists Market will have works and demonstrations by some of the Pennsylvania’s finest artisans, including noted quilter Carole Dorr.

The festival has added more for families with a children’s play area with rides and activities.

Returning is the “Hex Sign Initiative,” which the festival is doing in conjunction with Pennsylvania German Cultural Heritage Center at Kutztown University to catalog and preserve the hex signs of Lehigh County.

Lehigh and Berks counties are said to have more barns decorated with hex signs than anywhere in the United States.

“Like two legs of the same pair of pants, together Berks and Lehigh counties form the heartland of the Pennsylvania Dutch,” says Patrick Donmoyer, Director of Pennsylvania German Cultural Heritage Center.

Lehigh County hex signs are primarily floral patterns, featuring radial bursts of petals in organic patterns. Only a fraction have survived to the present day. Gorney says the signs need to be better documented.

Festival hours are noon-10 p.m. May 25 and May 26 and noon-8 p.m. May 27.

Information, festival schedule: pamusicsociety.org