Explore Centre County’s History & Culture

Welcome to the Centre County Encyclopedia of History & Culture, an online resource sponsored by the Centre County Historical Society.

This month we are featuring articles about the Central Pennsylvania Festival of the Arts, the popular event that returns in 2022, and the Nittany Valley Symphony, which was founded in 1967 to perform at the first festival. You can also read new articles about the American Philatelic Society, which has made its home in Centre County for decades, and Gene Wettstone, who founded the Penn State men's gymnastics program and guided it to nine national championships, as well as other articles.

We welcome your feedback about all the articles in the encyclopedia as well as your suggestions for future encyclopedia articles.

Featured Articles

Central Pennsylvania Festival of the Arts

The Central Pennsylvania Festival of the Arts, popularly known as “Arts Fest,” is a five-day event that draws more than 125,000 visitors to Centre County every summer. Since its founding in 1967, the festival has become one of the top arts festivals in the United States. The festival resumes in 2022 after not being held the past two years.

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Nittany Valley Symphony

The Nittany Valley Symphony is a community orchestra that has been performing in Centre County since 1967. The symphony was organized by Ann Keller of State College to perform at the first Central Pennsylvania Festival of the Arts. She recruited local musicians, most of whom held other jobs.

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Agriculture

The county’s agricultural history is geographically bifurcated. The Allegheny Front divides the fertile Ridge and Valley region from the agriculturally less well-endowed Allegheny Plateau. On the plateau, diversified small-scale farming and industrial work intermingled, while in the valleys, there was a more agricultural economy.

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American Philatelic Society

The American Philatelic Society is the world’s largest nonprofit organization dedicated to stamp collecting. Since 1945, the society’s headquarters has been in Centre County. It employs 34 full-time staff in the former Pennsylvania Match Factory in Bellefonte.

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Gene Wettstone

Gene Wettstone established the Penn State men’s gymnastics team and guided it to nine national championships, the most by a collegiate coach. He also served twice as head coach of the U.S. Olympic men’s team.

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Palmer Museum of Art

The Palmer Museum of Art, on Curtin Road in the core of the University Park campus, is Penn State’s art museum. Founded in 1972, it is largest art museum between Pittsburgh and Philadelphia. After an expansion and renovation, the museum was renamed in honor of benefactors, James and Barbara Palmer.

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Schlow Library

Schlow Centre Region Library, established in State College in 1957, serves Centre County residents as an agency of the Centre Region Council of Governments. The library was founded when local business owner Charles Schlow donated a property with a two-room storefront on West College Avenue to house it.

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Talleyrand Park

Talleyrand Park is a popular community recreation and gathering space alongside Spring Creek in downtown Bellefonte. The park is named for French diplomat Charles Maurice de Talleyrand, who on a visit to Pennsylvania in the 1790s spent a night in Bellefonte.

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