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Clowning around: Flossie the Fine Arts Fiesta Clown celebrates 44 years

Bob Kalinowski / staff photo Stacey Boyer of Dallas approaches "Flossie the Fine Arts Fiesta Clown," seeking balloon animals for her children, Serenity, 9, and Enoch, 3, on Sunday.

WILKES-BARRE — As the 66th annual Fine Arts Fiesta concluded Sunday on Public Square, it marked the 44th year of loyal service from one familiar, painted face: Flossie the Fine Arts Fiesta Clown.

Outside of the Fiesta, the beloved clown is better known as Mary Ellen Fowler, a retired nurse from Waverly. The Fiesta board pays her annually to dress up and make balloon animals for children for free — the only clown gig she’s ever had.

“I’ve been here since the 1970s. I’ve done this for the last 44 years,” Fowler said Sunday. “I would do it even if they didn’t pay me.”

A native of Warrior Run, Fowler said she always felt the four days clowning around at the Fiesta was an escape from the rigors of the nursing profession.

“All my years as a nurse, this was always my outlet for four days. My family knows this is one of my favorite things of the year,” Fowler said.

Fowler said she learned how to make balloon animals decades ago by reading a book. Then an acquaintance landed her the Fiesta gig.

On Sunday, Stacey Boyer of Dallas approached Fowler seeking balloon animals for her children, Serenity, 9, and Enoch, 3.

“What do you want — a mouse, a dog, a swan, a giraffe or a bunny?” Fowler asked.

Serenity chose a bunny.

“This is going to be my new friend,” Serenity said after getting her bunny. “I can’t wait to take this to school tomorrow.”

Mary Anne Fedrick, president of the Fiesta, said Fowler is a beloved icon and fan favorite among Fiesta goers.

In 2011, the Fiesta board honored Fowler with the “Howard B. Fedrick Friend of the Arts Award,” an honor named after Fedrick’s late husband.

“She’s wonderful. She has great spirit and energy. She’s been here many years in all kinds of weather. She’s loyal. The kids love her. We watched her bring her children here and now she’s here with her grandchildren,” Fedrick said.

This year’s Fiesta was the first full-fledged event since 2019. The 2020 Fiesta was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the last year’s event was a condensed version that didn’t include food vendors or live entertainment.

For the most part, this year’s Fiesta enjoyed good weather despite two rainstorms on Friday that toppled several vendor tents. A rainstorm threatened the final hours on Sunday, but the storm passed.

“We are pleased with the crowd and energy. It was a good four days,” Fedrick said. “We’ll be back next year.”

It was somewhat of a challenge to hold a full festival after having been interrupted for two years, Fedrick said.

“It forced us to rethink some things. We did have to go back and relearn a few things and we’re glad we did,” Fedrick said. “Bringing it back up to full speed took everyone working together.”

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