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Street performer at Musikfest!” by Lehighvalleypa is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

After 35 years, Musikfest’s free concerts generate big economic impact: Blog

By Stacy Wescoe, August 3, 2018 at 8:36 AM
A band performs at Familien Platz in 1984, showing that the size, scope and fashions of Musikfest have all changed a great deal since its inaugural year. (Photo courtesy of Musikfest)

This year marks a milestone for Musikfest. The music and arts festival that spreads across Bethlehem during early August is celebrating its 35th year.

Much has changed since the first polka rolled out the barrels in 1984, but some things have stayed very much the same, said Kassie Hilgert, president and CEO of ArtsQuest, the nonprofit that runs the arts festival.

“When Musikfest started in 1984, it had the same goals that we have today – to spur economic development and support the arts,” Hilgert said.

What have changed are the size and scope of the festival. While the nonprofit has no figures on the economic impact the festival had on the region in its first few years, today Musikfest brings in millions of dollars to support jobs in the arts and the local economy as it’s grown organically over the years.

Starting out as a festival that spanned and surrounded Bethlehem’s north side, Musikfest expanded to include the south side in 2011, when it incorporated its newly built SteelStacks campus into its offerings.

But much of that growth has been gradual, adding attractions and ideas and bringing the world to the Lehigh Valley.

Today, Musikfest estimates that it adds about $73 million to the region’s economy each year, about half of the entire $147 million that Hilgert said ArtsQuest generates through all of its festivals and activities each year.

Hilgert said the economic impact of the 10-day festival (if you include preview night) goes far beyond hotel stays and restaurant stops that most people assume – although she said it’s prime season for those in the hospitality industry in and around Bethlehem.

 

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