Local musicians, artists, and other members of the community will come together June 2 through June 4 to celebrate the 40th annual Ithaca Music and Arts Festival.

Headliners for the 2017 festival will include The Sim Redmond Band, The Gunpoets, and Big Mean Sound Machine, according to assistant director, McKenzie Jones Rounds. Performances from local musicians and dance troups will also be given. The annual event is held in downtown Ithaca.

The festival is open to all who wish to experience and support the talent that exists in Ithaca, officials said. Everything from ice cream and funnel cake to craft vendors with paintings and candles can be found extending over several blocks.

In addition to the performances, there will be a variety of activities, including horse and wagon rides, in honor of the festival's 40th annivesary, officials said. To fit this year's theme, “Celebrating Like It’s Our First,” elements of the first festival will be incorporated, according to Rounds, “including a big balloon waterfall.”

Originally known as “Celebration Ithaca,” the Ithaca Music and Arts festival has been working to empower artists since 1977, organizers said.

Executive Director Ben Greenberg said he's been doing research on the festival’s roots to prepare for this year’s theme.

“It all started with a grant to put on ‘Celebration Ithaca,’” Greenberg told The Scene. “Two weeks of music, scaling walls, the 60-foot balloon waterfall, and a big blow-up jack-in-a-box.”

From there, the Ithaca Festival has been around to kick off every summer. Applications to be a performer, artist or vendor are open to the public, and “the majority of the performers are Ithaca-based or have strong ties to the community,” Greenberg said.

This year’s theme encourages artists to assist in recreating the past, according to Greenberg. Noteworthy performers from past festivals include Samite, a musician from Uganda, and The Horse Flies, a band that was founded in the 1970s in Ithaca. Organizations such as Planned Parenthood, sports teams, and the circus have also been a part of past festivals.

The Ithaca Music and Arts Festival is one of the largest events in Tompkins County, according to organizers. Thousands of people attend the festival and accompanying parade.

Although Ithaca is home to Ithaca College and Cornell University, most of the students return to their respective homes before the festival. Greenberg said this allows for “the local city to reclaim Ithaca and show a strong sense of community.”

This year, the Greater Ithaca Activities Center festival and the Ithaca Music and Arts Festival will overlap Saturday, June 3rd. This is an exciting collaboration, according to Rounds, and will help promote more local talent.

“This will allow for different populations of people to blend together,” he said, “like they haven’t before.”

For more information on this year’s festival, visit ithacafestival.org.

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