The ever-changing artistic melody of the Fiesta

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First Posted: 5/13/2014

For 59 years, it has come into Wilkes-Barre, leaving behind a trail of people culturally enriched and thoroughly entertained – and it’s all been available at absolutely no charge.

The Fine Arts Fiesta, which takes place this year from May 15 through 18, has been the annual source for all things art, music, literature, and anything that highlights the varied cultures of the area, allowing area residents a wider scope of the world that surrounds them.

“It was something started out of goodwill, emphasizing a lot of varieties of our diverse community with ethnic pageants, talking about and having examples of all the diverse ethnic groups of the area,” said the Fiesta’s Executive Director Brian Benedetti, speaking on the importance of the event.

“We’ve changed since then, and the ethnicity of the area has changed. What was unique and different at that time is now more or less the norm. We have the Latin community, the more prominent African American community, and they’re all integrated into our program, participants themselves in the festival, so people can experience things they otherwise might not have the chance to. And, best of all, the whole experience remains free and open to the public, no charge.”

This year’s theme is “Artistry and Melody,” taken from the winner of the 158 entries into the annual Fiesta Poster Contest. This year, Krista Yocius, a senior at Crestwood High School, captured the win with her design.

There will be various acts present at this year’s Fiesta, featuring well-known ones that appear every year and those new to the event. The highlight of the Fiesta’s acts will come with the performance of Gary U.S. Bonds at 8 p.m. on May 17 on the Bandshell.

Bonds is a rhythm and blues and rock ‘n’ roll singer/songwriter whose hits “New Orleans” and “Quarter to Three” carried him to the top of the charts.

Also of note is Taikoza and East Winds Ensemble, two companies that have brought their Japanese drum, string, and flute music and dance style to venues around the world. They will perform Sunday at 2 p.m.

Since 1997, the Howard B. Fedtrick Friend of the Arts Award has been given to an individual or organization with a longstanding commitment and generous support of the cultural and artistic life of the local and regional community. This year, it’s awarded to David, Natalia, and Julie Kerr of Wilkes-Barre.

Over 25 years, David has worked with multiple Fiesta board committees and served five years as president. His wife Natalia has assisted the Fiesta in a variety of volunteer capacities, as well being an award-winning juried exhibition participant for her pastel works. Their daughter Julia continues the tradition as a volunteer for the festival over half her life and is now the youngest recipient of this award, as she will be graduating from Meyers High School in June.