"Who would have thought that from the embers of Bethlehem Steel an entire new industry would flourish, a creative industry that honors the community's past and celebrates its future with music, dance, theatre, film and visual arts," First Lady Susan Corbett said.
The opening ceremony of the 31st annual Musikfest was held Aug. 1 inside the ArtsQuest building in the Capital Blue Creativity Commons at SteelStacks. The event, which was originally to be held outside at the Aetna AmericaPlatz, was moved inside due to rain.
The ceremony began with the singing of the National Anthem, performed by Nailah Vasquez of the Lehigh Valley Charter High School for the Arts. The performance was followed by the invocation, delivered by Rt. Reverend Hopeton Clennon, and the welcome address by Hon. Robert Donchez, mayor of the City of Bethlehem.
“Musikfest truly is a melting pot of sound,” said Mayor Donchez in his welcome speech. “Every year Musikfest brings our community together and it allows us to share our great city with people from all over the country and all over the world.”
He continued on to thank city employees, ArtsQuest staff and volunteers, the performers taking part in the festival and Jeff Parks, the founder and president of ArtsQuest and Musikfest.
Parks then introduced Joe Pietrantonio, chair of the ArtsQuest board of trustees, to present three awards.
The first award recipient was the Redevelopment Authority of the City of Bethlehem for its early involvement with the SteelStacks project. The second was Christmas City Printing, who has supported ArtsQuest since 1987. The third recipient was PPL for its assistance in bringing and growing free programming in the surrounding area and being part of Musikfest from the first year it began.
First Lady Susan Corbett, the ceremony’s special guest, was next to speak. She was selected as a speaker because of her passion for the arts, demonstrated through her position as the Chair of the Pa. Council on the Arts.
She spoke about the economic impact of arts and culture and the inspiration residents take from being surrounded by events such as the ones hosted by ArtsQuest. She finished her speech by reading a letter written by Governor Tom Corbett, who was unable to attend the event.
The ceremony was brought to an end with a speech by Kassie Hilgert, senior vice president of marketing and advancement at ArtsQuest, thanking Jeff Parks for his ideas, actions and passion throughout his time as president of ArtsQuest. She spoke of the model Parks used to develop the area:
“Use the assets of where you are and who you are and inject those assets with arts and culture in a way that creates compelling experiences that bring people back all year long. The more people that come, the more business that open, the more existing ones grow,” Hilgert said, concluding, “and come back, they have.”
The 10 day festival, which runs Aug. 1 through 10, will feature 500 performers, 14 stages, 30 acres and host up to 1 million people.