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Room for Two: Great Pennsylvania Music & Arts Celebration, Mayfair both happy with Memorial Day Weekend runs

If there’s one thing the past four days may have proved, it’s that Allentown can support two Memorial Day weekend festivals.A day after Allentown’s revived Mayfair festival finished its three-day run with crowds that overflowed its parking lots, the Great Pennsylvania Music & Arts Celebration also had one of the best-attended days in its second year at Allentown Fairgrounds, officials said.The centerpiece of the festival’s closing day, a USO tribute show that featured performers impersonating Bob Hope, Phyllis Diller, Marilyn Monroe and the Andrews Sisters — and even Michelle DellaFave, who performed with Hope in two USO Tours and on TV’s “Dean Martin Show” — drew about 300 people into the fairgrounds’ Agricultural Hall.Retired National Guard chaplain Lt. Col Edward Coyle speaks at the opening of Monday’s final day of the Great Pennsylvania Music & Arts Celebration at Allentown Fairgrounds (John J. Moser/)Meanwhile 100 or so people on the festival grounds watched even more music or ate at food stands.And the crowds held steady as the day went on. Several hundred watched the festival’s final main-stage acts, The Dana Gaynor Band and Craig Thatcher Band.The nonprofit Pennsylvania’s Music Preservation Society started the Great Pennsylvania Music & Arts Celebration last year, the same year Mayfair was revived at Cedar Crest College after a year’s hiatus, giving Allentown two free weekend festivals just three miles apart.The celebration was conceived as both a tribute to the state’s role in various musical genres as well as a more focused tribute to Memorial Day, and Executive Director Carole Gorney noted that its audience again this year grew around the holiday.“There’s room for patriotism,” Gorney said. “I want this to be something more than a commercial venture. It’s a way of preserving a way of life.”The USO tribute was part of that focus on Memorial Day. The festival also opened Monday with a formal Memorial Day ceremony with retired National Guard chaplain Lt. Col Edward Coyle speaking about the answer to Francis Scott Key’s question at the end of “The Star Spangled Banner”: Does it still wave?”Today we honor those who made the ultimate sacrifice to make it possible for that flag to wave over our free land, ” Coyle said. “Their sacrifice speaks louder than any words.” He also asked for “prayer that one day there is a generation that does not know war,” but remembers that sacrifice.Bill Johnson portrays Bob Hope during the USO Tribute show at the Great Pennsylvania Music & Arts Celebration at Allentown FairgroundsMayfair had been discontinued after 31 years at Allentown’s Cedar Creek Park, where it was buffeted by bad weather and financial losses, then it struggled through four years at the Allentown Fairgrounds before finally folding.Fair weather draws crowd to Mayfair Festival for art, music, food and funMayfair Executive Director Lauren Condon said one thing that led to its larger crowds this year was the way the festival expanded to 60 arts and crafts vendors, double the number from last year, and 26 food and beverage vendors, about 50 percent more than last year.“We added a lot of the food components we were missing,” she said. “The flow [of people walking the festival] is a lot better this year.”Interest in art also seemed higher, Condon said. The expanded Artists in Action program was especially popular, with a potter, paper maker and a Fairy Garden Workshop, in which participants created two-tier layered clay pot gardens that include small plants and a Wee Folk fairy.“That’s the kind of engaging people we want — the education of it in addition to the visual art,” she said.Both festivals said they’re already looking forward to next year.Condon said Mayfair would look to expand the artists’ market, as well as do more with the family fun zone with perhaps more rides and games. She said patrons had requested more Mayfair souvenir merchandise, such as hats and shirts.The goal, she said, was “making sure that people are getting what they expect from Mayfair when they come to our campus, but making it our own at Cedar Crest College.”Gorney said the Music & Arts Celebration will look for more things to bring people in. She said Saturday’s rock ‘n’ roll night and dance contest did exceptionally well, bringing out an enthusiastic audience twice the size of last year’s opening night.She said the celebration also will partner with Allentown Latino radio station La Matraka 106.5 FM not just for the celebration, but for other activities all year long.“I’m very optimistic about it,” she said of the celebration. “I think it’s worth doing, and I think there’s a lot more we can do.”
Source: Morningcall

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