Tonight marks the 31st year of Musikfest in Bethlehem, the nation’s largest nongated free music festival and a significant economic driver for the Greater Lehigh Valley.
Musikfest, in Bethlehem’s historic Moravian and SouthSide Arts districts, begins at 5 p.m. and runs through Aug. 10, featuring live music on 14 stages throughout the city and nearly 350 artists representing a wide range of tastes and ethnicities. Food and desserts will line the city’s streets, with 65 vendors and 45 artisans from around the nation, with an expected 10-day attendance of nearly one million people.
The festival is the flagship event of ArtsQuest, a nonprofit arts organization in Bethlehem, with the proceeds of the event to benefit ArtsQuest ventures, including the Banana Factory community arts center in South Bethlehem.
“The first day of Musikfest is as exciting to me as Christmas morning was when I was a kid,” ArtsQuest’s soon-to-be president and CEO Kassie Hilgert said this morning. “The excitement and efforts of so many people including our staff, sponsors, members, thousands of volunteers and an entire community culminate at 5 p.m. today… right here in Bethlehem.”
Local German roots run deep at the celebration, with most of the festival’s venues using the word Platz at the ends of their names, which in German means place or square. Festplatz, for example, is a popular place at Musikfest for eating and listening to music, with dining tables and a nightly polka band performance, which each year draws a lively crowd of dancing fest-goers.
Each night on Steel Stage, the festival’s premium stage, a nationally known recording artist performs. These premium concerts, along with select shows at other stages, require paid tickets. This year, Keith Urban, Sheryl Crow and Steely Dan are among the nightly premium acts.
There are several free parking lots available throughout the city, with shuttle services to transport attendees to the festival. Shuttle costs average less than $5 per person. ArtsQuest members and volunteers ride free, and parking metered spaces are available throughout the city.
Opening ceremonies for Musikfest are at 6 tonight at Aetna Americaplatz at Levitt Pavilion SteelStacks. Closing ceremonies on Aug. 10 will feature a fireworks display.
“For the next 10 days, we get to host the nation and even people from other countries and give them an experience unlike any other,” Hilgert said. “As we like to say, imagine that.”
For more information, visit www.musikfest.org.