By Brigid Edmunds, Wilkes-Barre Times Leader
WILKES-BARRE — Starting Thursday, thousands of area residents will descend on Public Square to listen to music, peruse art, enjoy some tasty food and even possibly purchase a few unique items from artists from throughout the East Coast.
The first signs of life of this coming weekend’s Fine Arts Fiesta could be seen Sunday morning as workers set up the tents that will hold the event’s featured attraction — the art.
However, the 62nd annual Wilkes-Barre Fine Arts Fiesta, which runs Thursday through Sunday, wouldn’t be much of an event at all without the work of more than 300 volunteers who have spent the last year preparing for this weekend.
“The volunteers make sure (the fiesta) goes off without a hitch,” said Kathy Bozinski, who sits on the Fine Arts Fiesta board and is a member of the board’s publicity committee.
Bozinski said the volunteers spend pretty much the entire year preparing for the fiesta, which she said is the oldest, full-scale continuous arts festival in Pennsylvania. They meet once a month, starting in the fall, Bozinski said, and they have about 350 people volunteer every year, helping with every aspect of the festival.
“It does take a lot of behind-the-scenes work,” she said.
A lot of behind-the-scenes work.
Bozinski and Fiesta President Mary Anne Fedrick said they have volunteers helping year-round, including holding monthly planning meetings, helping when artists drop off their work in April to be judged, helping put up the artwork on Public Square, setting up at information booths and even helping vendors on Public Square selling goods.
“You name it, we can use volunteers,” Bozinski said.
There is even a grounds crew to help keep the square clean throughout the week, Fedrick said.
They get a variety of help, as well. Bozinski and Fedrick said they have people who have volunteered with the festival for more than 20 years, but they’re also always looking for new recruits.
“They’re all kinds of people,” Fedrick said. “It becomes a tradition for volunteers.”
Above all, Bozinski and Fedrick said it’s a love for both art and the community that keeps volunteers coming back year after year.
“They love the event,” Fedrick said.
Helene Reed, of Mountain Top, has been volunteering with the festival for about 20 years. She started volunteering with her late husband, Bill Reed, and continues because she believes the arts are an important aspect of the community.
“It’s the best Wilkes-Barre has to offer,” Reed said. “I love the excitement and the color.”
The work the volunteers do doesn’t go unnoticed, either. Every year, the board throws a thank you event for the volunteers to recognize all the work done throughout the year preparing for the festival.
“We know we couldn’t do it without them,” Fedrick said.