r Vendors, crowd of attendees enjoy day one of annual Athens event

Harlan Rowe Junior High School, home to the annual Athens ArtsFest, was visited by thousands of unusual guests on Saturday.

They didn't walk through the school's crowded hallways to observe works from students and artists competing in the festival's competitive art show, nor did they sit in the school's auditorium to watch performances by the Athens Area School District's musical groups. Instead, they buzzed in a glass case, attracting crowds to a table set up by Free Grazer Farm of Williamsport.

The worker bees, which the farm's Shane Pedro referred to as the "entourage" of a queen bee in the encased hive, visited ArtsFest for the first time this year, bringing with them the farm's beeswax candles and beauty products and several varieties of honey.

Passersby continuously made a stop to observe the bees. On Saturday afternoon, the queen bee was in the process of laying an egg, Pedro said.

"The kids really like it," Pedro said of the hive. "They're fascinated by them."

Pedro and his bees joined over 100 other artists, authors, jewelry makers, musicians, craftsmen and others selling their wares and giving demonstrations inside the school and under tents in the adjacent lawn. Bands played throughout the day at three designated stages around the festival.

Artist Lucille Norella of Waymart, Pa. displayed her works in the middle school's gym along with several other artisans. Norella arranges and presses flowers picked from her own garden and frames quotes, many of which she wrote herself, for a variety of occasions.

This is the second year in a row Norella has attended ArtsFest. "I'm going to keep coming here," she said. "It's a great fair."

Artists weren't the only people with tables set up Saturday. Local organizations took advantage of the traffic generated by the festival to hand out information and raise money for their causes. Several organizations held raffles, including The Bridge of the Penn-York Valley Churches, which sold $5 tickets Saturday for a chance to win a hot air balloon ride provided by Balloons Over Corning.

In addition, Bradford County Dairy Princess Michala Kuhlman handed out free milk and cookies at The Bridge's information table. Milk and cookies bring comfort to people much like The Bridge has brought comfort to those in need in the Waverly, Sayre and Athens school districts, said Kuhlman's mother, Connie Kuhlman. "It turned out to be a great tie-in," she said.

Other organizations represented at the fair included several local animal shelters, the Athens Borough Shade Tree Commission, Sayre Historical Society and the Athens Area High School Science Olympiad team, which demonstrated science experiments at their tent every 15 minutes.

At neighboring Lynch-Bustin Elementary School, the Lynch-Bustin Parent Teacher Group held a basket raffle, which will continue until the prizes are drawn at 3 p.m. Sunday. Aktion KWEST also presented a popular nine-hole miniature golf course in the school's gymnasium.

Bob Swain, known as "Bob the Bike Man," gave two presentations Saturday and displayed his large collection of bicycles, including a big-wheel bicycle, tandem bicycles, tricycles and a "conference bike" that seats several people at once.

Swain demonstrated juggling and a Chinese yo-yo for the crowd. "I believe in toys with no batteries," he told the crowd, joking that he only appreciates "the battery in my pacemaker."

Bob the Bike Man will continue to entertain crowds Sunday, as well as folk music and humor act Nate and Kate, the Athens Student Actors Guild and other bands. Chainsaw sculpture demonstrations, an inflatable obstacle course and bounce house, a children's activity corner, goldfish races and other activities will take place Sunday as well.

Athens ArtsFest continues from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday; admission to the event is free, and a shuttle bus will run between the festival grounds and Athens Area High School beginning at noon.