Another ggod festival is the Mt. Laurel, put on by Dr. Orthey in central PA (check Cyberpluckers festival site for particulars). The problem with the really well established autoharp makers is that they have standardized their models to the point where the chord bar set-up is the only thing you can change (other than diatonic setups). But, by going to the festival, you can meet some of the up and coming builders, who might be willing to make modifacations to their harps for a reasonable price.
For example, I play a lot of Irish jigs with Hammered Dulcimers, and needed a harp with plenty of volume and a special drone string tuning, with keys in C,G,D and A in a chord pattern exactly reversed from Bowers. I met a fellow from Latrobe, PA (Don Brinker) at the festival, and we struck a deal to use a floating bridge construction technique developed by Nick Blanton (high-end HD builder).
The result was superb, with Fladmark and Orthey types jealous of the sound and the price. The secret is duplicate chord bars which allow the drone strings to ring while giving the melody to the upper end of the chord bars, duplicate drone strings to give volume and presence, and a deeper box with HD laminate pin blocks to give the sound some room to grow.
The best advice I can give you is to save your money until you can go to a fairly big festival in your area, and then see the harps and talk with the builders. (By the way, the Mt. Laurel was really cheap, with a $65 entry, camping on-site or cheap motels a short distance away, and excellent food served at good prices by a local VFD. I am more advanced than most of the classes, but there appeared to be something for everyone). Good Luck!