The Local Economic Impact of Folk College in Huntingdon County, 2013

Folk College, a weekend-long music event held by the Huntington County Arts Council, opens up Huntington County to a slew of outsiders for two days of music and art. Learn how a small event can have such an incredible economic impact on the County.

About Folk College

Folk College is a weekend-long music event organized by the Huntingdon County Arts Council and Simple Gifts, a folk band based in State College and Philadelphia.  Held annually since its founding in 1999, Folk College includes workshops, jam sessions and optional pre-event intensive workshops for amateur musicians who play folk music instruments, such as fiddle, guitar, mandolin, banjo, and dulcimer.  It also includes two concerts open to the general public.    The event is held on the Juniata College campus in Huntingdon Borough, typically over the Memorial Day weekend in May.

Participants of Folk College may choose to take part in a variety of workshops occurring during several sessions throughout the day.  The workshops are designed to allow participants of all levels of proficiency and areas of interest and talent to improve their skills and learn from a staff of professional musicians.  Concerts and jam sessions are held every evening featuring talented musical groups from the region.  Folk College provides concerts which are open to the Huntingdon community, sharing music with residents that would not have the opportunity without this event.

In 2013, 94 people attended Folk College, which occurred May 24 through May 26.  Forty-three of the participants also attended optional pre-event intensive workshops on Friday.   A separate Fiber Arts Festival, also organized by the Huntingdon County Arts Council, was held on the campus close to Folk College on one day, and showcased aspects of fiber arts and included classes, vendors and exhibits.  Participants in Folk College received admission passes to the Fiber Arts Festival exhibitors hall, and many visited during the event.

A majority of Folk College participants live outside Huntingdon County, so from an economic development perspective, the event brings people into the county who would not otherwise visit and spend money.  This report examines the economic impact of Folk College in Huntingdon County, including the spending by non-county resident participants and by the Huntingdon Arts Council itself to prepare for and run the three-day event.


Each Folk College participant in 2013 was given a survey in their registration packet, which included questions about their spending in Huntingdon County while attending Folk College.  These included   specific questions about different types of spending, including  lodging,  restaurants and meals,  retail purchases,  gas and auto services, music CDs, musical instruments, purchases  at the Fiber Arts Festival, and any other spending made in the county while they attended Folk College.   The participants were asked to leave their completed survey in a collection box at the end of the event.

The surveys were supplemented by a face-to-face interview with the director of the Huntingdon County Arts Council to determine the local expenditures of organizing and running the event.  These included rental fees to Juniata College for use of their facilities, payments to staff instructors, and printing and advertising services. 

The information from the surveys and interview were entered into the input-output economic model IMPLAN to estimate the local economic multiplier effects in Huntingdon County.   IMPLAN is among the most commonly used economic impact models, and has been commonly used to analyze the economic impacts of tourism events, new business activity, and other economic changes. There are clear cautions to its use and interpretation. 

Survey Results

Sixty-four of the Folk College participants answered and returned the surveys, a 68 percent response rate.  Only one of the survey respondents indicated they were from Huntingdon.  This means the vast majority of Folk College participants are non-residents who otherwise would not have been in Huntingdon County, so their spending is a net addition to the county’s economy.

Nonlocal attendees were given the option to use dorm room housing on the Juniata College campus or to find accommodations at local campgrounds or hotels.  Most, however, chose to stay in the college campus dorm rooms.  Attendees could also take part in the Folk College meal plan, which included five meals during the three days. 

The participant survey responses indicated that 70 percent of attendees stayed in the dorms on the Juniata College campus.  Attendees were given the option of staying either two or three nights in the dorms and the overwhelming majority (83 percent) chose to stay just two nights.  Those who did not stay in the dorms chose to stay in a private home (14 percent), in a hotel or motel (7 percent), or at a local campground (5 percent). 

All Folk College participants paid a registration fee to attend the event, with the fee ranging from $200 for those who pre-registered far in advance, to $240 for those who registered later or at the door.  A large majority of attendees (82 percent) participated in the Folk College meal plan (82 percent), which cost $90 per person.   Participants that stayed on the Juniata College campus on average spent $105 on lodging in the dorms (some stayed two nights, while others stayed three), while those that stayed off campus on average spent $220 on lodging.  Participants spent an average of $28.38 in local restaurants and grocery stores, outside of the meal plan.  The spending per person averaged $9.53 at local retail stores, and $6.02 on items at the Fiber Arts Festival.   The most spending occurred in gas and auto sales ($45.88 per person) and purchases of music related items, such as instruments and music CD’s ($62.33 per person).  The survey results showed that most Folk College attendees came to Huntingdon specifically for the event and for the most part, chose to spend their money on accommodations, food, and other items on the college campus rather than in town.   We used the survey responses to estimate the total spending by all Folk College attendees, extrapolating these numbers to the non-respondents.

Economic Impact Results

The economic impact model IMPLAN estimates several components of local economic impacts, including direct, indirect, and induced impacts.  The direct economic impacts are the dollars spent by the Folk College participants and Huntingdon County Arts Council in the county related to Folk College.   The indirect economic impacts are the added spending on goods and services within Huntingdon County by businesses receiving these ‘direct’ dollars, such as a local restaurant purchasing food supplies to replenish what Folk College participants ate.  The induced economic impacts are the resulting added local spending by employees of these businesses, such as employees spending more locally due to their earnings indirectly related to Folk College.  This ripple effect of spending is known as the economic multiplier effect. 

Total Economic Impact

The IMPLAN analysis of the interview and estimated participant spending indicates that the total economic impact of Folk College in Huntingdon County in 2013 was $55,395.81 (see Table 1 below).  This includes a direct impact of $40,512, which is the sum of all the local spending by the event attendees and the Arts Council.  Using the given multipliers for Huntingdon, IMPLAN estimated the indirect and induced impacts.  The indirect economic impact was estimated to be $7,207 and the induced impact was estimated to be $7,676. 

Table 1. Total Economic Impact of Folk College in Huntingdon, 2013

Direct Indirect Induced Total
Huntingdon County, All Sectors $40,512.05 $7,207.05 $7,676.70 $55,395.81

Economic Impact by Sector

Table 2 provides a more detailed summary of these impacts, broken out by the sector of the Huntingdon County economy.  Not surprisingly, the largest economic impacts were in the Service Sector, which includes retail establishments, restaurants and hotels, non-profits, and Juniata College.

Table 2. Economic Impact of Folk College in Huntingdon, by Sector. 2013
Impacts by Sector Direct Indirect Induced Total
Total in County $40,512.10 $7,207.00 $7,676.70 $55,395.80
Agriculture 0 $6.40 $10.70 $17.00
Mining 0 $70.50 $24.40 $94.90
Construction 0 $304.40 $103.20 $407.50
Manufacturing $1,801.00 $102.10 $17.30 $1,920.50
TIPU 0 $1,279.10 $496.80 $1,775.90
Trade $2,255.40 $216.60 $1,213.30 $3,685.20
Service $36,455.70 $4,962.80 $5,732.60 $47,151.20
Government 0 $265.10 $78.40 $343.60

Impact Summary

The economic impact analysis in this report suggests that in 2013, Folk College generated $55,395.80 in economic impact within Huntingdon County.  This included the direct impacts of spending by the Huntingdon County Arts Council to hold Folk College, plus related spending by Folk College participants when they were in the county to attend the event. The participant survey results indicated that a large majority of attendees do not live in the county, which means Folk College visibly is contributing to the Huntingdon County economy by increasing the number of non-county residents who visit and purchase things within the community.

Contact Information

Timothy Kelsey, Ph.D.
  • Professor of Agricultural Economics
Phone: 814-865-9542