Arts Festival weekend attracts alumni and family back to State College

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Every Penn Stater has different reasons for returning to campus. For some, it’s the tradition and spirit of Homecoming Weekend in the fall. For others, it’s the excitement and passion for the Blue-White football game in the spring.

But for Robert and Carmen Stoffa, it’s the atmosphere of Arts Festival Weekend in the summer.

With one daughter a Penn State alumna, another daughter a current student, and their son a hopeful Nittany Lion, the Stoffas have instilled in their family what Penn State has instilled in them — pride. They’ll return to Happy Valley this summer to express that pride during Arts Festival Weekend 2017, taking place July 12–16.

“There’s just something about the atmosphere in the summertime,” said Robert, a 1983 graduate of the College of Earth and Mineral Sciences. “That laid-back, welcoming environment to enjoy with your family — you can’t beat it.”

“It’s home,” added Carmen, a 1986 graduate of the College of Health and Human Development. “Every place you pass holds a memory.”

The Stoffas plan on eating a lot of Berkey Creamery ice cream, walking around campus, and unexpectedly running into friends and classmates, as they have in years before. It’s a time for them to “relax and enjoy a hassle-free weekend,” Robert said.

For other alumni, though, Arts Festival Weekend is about family tradition.

For the third year in a row, Amy Gifford, a 2016 College of Nursing graduate, and her mother Cindy, a 1986 graduate, will attend Arts Festival Weekend. Their favorite on-campus Arts Festival moments often derive from breakfast in West Halls — where Gifford’s mother lived as an undergraduate — touring Old Main, and the Berkey Creamery Ice Cream Social, where they like to hang out and reminisce with other Penn Staters.

“I love walking around and seeing everything that’s changed on campus,” Gifford said. “It reminds me of my friends and memories here. Penn State is who I am.”

Through the Alumni Association, alumni and their families have the opportunity to participate in Arts Festival Alumni Weekend, where they can relive their student days by reserving rooms in West Halls. The room reservation also includes free breakfast and an Arts Festival button that provides them access to giveaways and a behind-the-scenes tour with the Arts Festival executive committee, among other entertainment and activities downtown.

For some people, it’s the art and music of Arts Festival that draws them back for the weekend. For others, it’s the opportunity to reconnect with friends and family and smile about old memories, like the Stoffas and Giffords do each year. Whatever the reason, Arts Festival has a little bit to offer each of its 100,000 yearly visitors.

“All of the alumni just come together, and everyone is so happy,” Gifford said.

“Everyone I know who has come to Penn State, it’s a part of them — it’s a part of you,” Robert added. “Just come back and experience it again for the weekend. Just come home.”

To register for Arts Festival Alumni Weekend, visit the Alumni Association's website.

To learn more about the history of Arts Festival, click here.

Editor's note: This story originally appeared in AlumnInsider, the Alumni Association's monthly e-newsletter for enrolled members. Visit the Alumni Association's website for options on joining.

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Last Updated May 15, 2017