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As a professor at Wilkes University, Al Groh, along with trustee Annette Evans, began the United Nationalities Pageant. This event eventually developed into today’s Fine Arts Fiesta. The pageant provided an opportunity for people to come together and share their culture through the arts and cuisine. Today, the Fine Arts Fiesta celebrates the local culture and the arts as well as the rich resources fueled by the expression of the human spirit and the motivation to create.

While taking a graduate class in Kansas City, our professor from Lesley University (Cambridge, Mass.) and fellow students sang what the professor called “a Native American chant from the Nanticoke Indian people.”

As part of this group in Kansas City singing the chant together, I envisioned the mountains and valley in Northeastern Pennsylvania. Growing up in Kingston, Pa., I had known Nanticoke for its large Polish community. In my mind I then toured the area and thought of how many people from many ethnic groups call it home. There were many opportunities to make connections with people from various backgrounds. I then thought of the various styles of music that must have been played throughout the generations reflecting the multitude of cultures. Since graduating college, I have lived in different parts of the country. Some communities have felt very homogenous. While living in those communities it opened my eyes to the rare opportunities I had coming from Northeastern PA.

This sense of appreciation for my hometown started me on a journey that led me to Al Groh and the history behind the Fine Arts Fiesta. From Punch and Judy Puppet shows to coordinating resources from the rich and diverse cultures in the area, Al Groh is a genuine example of one whose contributions have enriched the fiber that we call community. At age 90, he continues to exhibit dedication to culture within the community. As poet laureate he has prepared a poem for this year’s event and still serves as an adviser.

Honoring creativity and vision within the community, Al and his wife, Jane Lampe Groh, former dean at Wilkes, continue to provide support and encouragement by nurturing connections between people and celebrating the arts as the lifeblood within the Wyoming Valley.

Let us continue to grow together with mutual respect for all cultures so that our children may feel this same sense of appreciation for their home by supporting one of our unique treasures, the Fine Arts Fiesta.

— Gail Rothstein Forstater, April 2011

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