The York Fringe Festival: Bringing Wild, Cool and Artsy Vibes to York

Story by Kirsten McWilliams for YRK Magazine

Wild, unique, whimsical, outrageous, comical and artistic. The York Fringe Festival, presented by YRK Creative, is all of that and more — shaking up the downtown York live entertainment and arts scene from Wednesday, August 22, through Sunday, August 26. For the first time ever, the York Fringe Festival will be held in tandem with the YorkFest Fine Arts Festival.

What to Expect From the York Fringe Festival

So what is the York Fringe Festival anyway? It’s a juried performing arts festival open to local and regional artists of all ages.

You can look forward to many shows and performances that cover dance, theater, spoken word, music and video — offerings you may not have the opportunity to see in York. Participating artists will showcase performances ranging from innovative twists on classic plays such as Shakespeare on the Rocks, hilarious improv, an aerial concert — yes, an aerial concert — silent disco hosted by the audio and visual artists Aortic Valve, unusual acts like the StrangeLove Side Show Spectacle, opera, storytelling, poetry, drama and more at different venues across York City.

See and experience all of these acts yourself: Tickets range from free to $20. Why miss out on that opportunity? Bring your friends and have a good time. Be sure to read the descriptions of the York Fringe Festival shows before bringing your younger ones along as some shows have adult themes and may not be suitable for children. But don’t worry: Several performances are ones that every member of the family can enjoy.

Where Did the Fringe Festival Movement Come From?

The York Fringe Festival is part of the International Fringe movement which has roots in the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, founded when eight theater companies in Edinburgh, Scotland, arrived uninvited to the inaugural Edinburgh International Festival in 1947. With the official festival using the city’s major venues, these companies took over smaller, alternative venues for their productions on the “fringe” of the festival. The York Fringe Festival aims to foster accessibility, inclusiveness and creativity in the live arts while keeping costs low for audience and performers.

The Team Behind the York Fringe Festival

The York Fringe Festival is a nonprofit organization, and its board comprises a local team who brought the fringe festival concept to York: Karin Swartz, president; Meagan Feeser, secretary; Tom LaForgia, treasurer; Philip Given; Tonisha Price; Mike Pritchard and Jason Sabol. All are community-minded live arts kids at heart.

Mike, Karin, Meagan, Toni, and Philip all grew up in York. Tom moved to York after attending York College. Jason grew up in Erie and moved to York to become solicitor for the City of York in 2013.

Karin had the idea to bring a fringe festival movement to York in 2011. Having moved back to York from Philadelphia, which has a thriving fringe and live arts festival each year, Karin recognized that the York community could appreciate and embrace a fringe festival concept. Karin built on her experience working with a few of the Philadelphia fringe programs through her college theater professors, some of whom were part of the original team that made the Philadelphia’s fringe festival happen.

Impact of the York Fringe Festival

Through several informational sessions, Karin and her team were able to attract various out-of-the-box and unique acts for the festival with the goal of exposing the York community to shows and performances that people may not know about otherwise.

“The other really great thing about a festival like this is that it can serve as a place for artists to work on their acts,” Karin says. For example, a local musician is writing music for an aerial artist who lives in Tennessee. She will be traveling to perform for the York Fringe Festival to workshop her performance before she takes it on the road.

“It is a great way for people in York to learn about aerial dance and for her to hone her production. By design, many fringe festivals happen over the summer when theaters are dark so that new works can be workshopped for the upcoming season,” Karin explains.

Karin also expressed that she hopes the York Fringe Festival will introduce people to something new, whether it’s a venue that they have never been to before or a type of performance that they aren’t familiar with. The idea is to get people to see and do something different all while supporting the arts in the City of York.

Buy Your Tickets Now

Looking for something new to include in your weekday or weekend plans? Don’t miss your chance to attend one or more events that the York Fringe Festival has to offer. Open your mind to a world of arts and live performances. Support the York Fringe Festival and your local businesses by attending a show and going out for dinner, drinks, coffee or dessert before or after a show — the perfect weekday or weekend outing. Purchase tickets at

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26 Jul