Musikfest attracts a million fans to Bethlehem, Pa.

August 05, 2010|By Kayla Cross Bawroski, The Baltimore Sun

With 10 days of more than 400 performances from 325 artists, MusikFest 2010 is set to entertain more than a million music fans who travel each year to Bethlehem, Pa., for the event, which begins today.

"The last two years we've had over 1.1 million and this year, again, we have a tremendous lineup," said Curt Mosel, director of marketing for ArtsQuest, which produces the festival.

The numbers have grown since MusikFest began in 1984, when it drew 184,000 people.

Jeff Parks, president of ArtsQuest, its parent company, created the Bethlehem MusikFest Association with one goal: to celebrate arts and culture.

"It started as a small, grassroots festival presented by volunteers," said Mark Demko, spokesperson for ArtsQuest. "The city of Bethlehem was going through a bit of a difficult time … and they wanted to create an event that would help attract people to the downtown."

The low cost is a big draw. Of the festival's 14 stages, 11 are free, and represent almost every music genre.

"You can come in and enjoy just about everything a festival has to offer for free," Mosel said. "You'll get everything from what we consider Afrobeat to zydeco."

Not every performance is free. Paid admission is required at Sands RiverPlace, where artists such as Martina McBride and Lynyrd Skynyrd will perform this year, and shows in the Performing Arts and Candlelight Concert Series categories.

The proceeds from MusikFest 2010, and the other festivals ArtsQuest produces, support The Banana Factory, a Bethlehem area community arts center, and other local groups.

Among the headlining artists is Trombone Shorty, a New Orleans musician who has appeared in David Simon's HBO series "Treme," and who MusikFest has showcased in the past.

"He does a funk rock R&B type music … it's really catching on," said Mosel, who is a fan.

MusikFest 2010 will also feature 45 vendors offering foods from countries from the Middle East to Asia, as well as 50 craft vendors.

What keeps people coming back isn't always the food or the bands, though that is a huge draw, but the history and traditions behind it.

"So many people say they grew up coming to MusikFest and come back year after year," Mosel said. "I think that's a good part of how the festival has grown through the great experiences people have had."

The festival is currently focused on the north end of Bethlehem, allowing visitors a chance to see the historic buildings of the city. In the future, ArtsQuest plans on expanding MusikFest to the south end, as well as instituting new festivals at the SteelStacks complex, a venue set to open in May.

"We'll eventually be doing 10 new festivals, such as a jam band festival, a jazz series, a Latin festival and more," Demko said.

Until then, festival lovers can enjoy the hundreds of mostly free performances, including nearly 150 new artists.

"If you come year after year, you'll always have the opportunity to experience something new," Mosel said.

If you go MusikFest 2010

The 10-day festival is today through Aug. 15, with many events taking place on the streets of downtown Bethlehem, Pa., and concerts taking place at a variety of venues.

Eleven venues are free, but Sands RiverPlace and shows in the Performing Arts Series or Candlelight Concert Series require tickets, ranging from $20-$57.

Performers include Counting Crows today, Norah Jones on Saturday, Lynyrd Skynyrd on Aug. 9, the Doobie Brothers on Aug. 11 and Adam Lambert on Aug. 13, among others. Concerts by Selena Gomez, Richie Havens, Dave Mason and The Avett Brothers have sold out.

For more information, including purchasing tickets and concert schedules, go to musikfest.org or call ArtsQuest at 610-332-1300.

Getting there

Bethlehem is reached from Interstate 78 in eastern Pennsylvania, about a three-hour drive from Baltimore.

Lodging

Several hotels are partnering with the festival to offer lodging packages, but some are already sold-out for the event. Below are just a few that have rooms available:

Hotel Bethlehem, 437 Main St., Bethlehem, Pa., 800-607-2384; hotelbethlehem.com. Rates start at $209.

Hyatt Place Bethlehem, 45 W. North St., Bethlehem, Pa., 610-625-0500; bethlehem.place.hyatt.com. Rates start at around $129.

Fairfield Inn, 2140 Motel Drive, Bethlehem, Pa., 610-867-8681; marriott.com. Rates start at $119.

Information

For more information about Bethlehem and the greater Lehigh Valley, go to christmascity.org or historicbethlehem.org or lehighvalleypa.org.

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