Over the past three years, more than 22,000 students visited F.M. Kirby Center for the Performing Arts to attend free children’s programming.
Last year, after funds from an anonymous donor dwindled, the Kirby Center had to brainstorm about ways to keep the Young People’s Theater Series free for audiences. From that grew the venue’s first fundraiser, one that returns this Saturday, April 21.
The second F.M. Kirby Fest: A Night of Pints, Pinot and Performing Arts kicks off at 5 p.m. at the downtown Wilkes-Barre venue. Executive director Will Beekman said this year’s event includes “more of everything” at a lower rate. The all-inclusive tickets cost $25 for Kirby members and $30 for nonmembers in advance, and $35 the day of the event. 
To align with the night’s laid-back vibe, guests can wander among the tables of food and drink vendors at their own pace. Unlike traditional Kirby Center events, people do not receive assigned seats and can eat and sit wherever they choose — even on the stage.
“What I find I am most excited for was that at last year’s event, before it was even over, vendors were asking if we were doing it again,” Beekman said. “They got just as much out of it as vendors as our patrons did. Those vendors were excited to come back on board, and then other vendors heard about it. I don’t want to say it wasn’t difficult … but we found it relatively easier to get so many people involved this year.”
Lauren Pluskey McLain, director of development, and Joell Yarmel, manager of membership and corporate sponsorship, booked more than 30 food, wine and beer vendors to place around the theater’s chandelier lobby, mezzanine lobby and downstairs gallery.
Vendors involved in the event include Benny Brewing, Nimble Hill Winery & Brewery, and North Slope, Susquehanna and Wallenpaupack brewing companies; wine from Maiolatesi Wine Cellars, Pisano Family Wines, and Bartolai and Freas Farm wineries; and food from Soup Chic, Genetti’s, Rodano’s, Stegmaier Mansion, City Market & Cafe and Arena Bar & Grill, among others.
Live entertainment will come from K8, PaulSko, Jamie Anzalone from County Lines, Dymond Cutter and Rockology Academy students.
A silent auction of show memorabilia will take place throughout the night and includes signed posters from the likes of Jerry Seinfeld, Frankie Valli, Theresa Caputo, Johnny Mathis, the Beach Boys and Alice Cooper.  
“In addition to having a larger event in terms of vendors, we have a larger number of autographed items available for auction,” Beekman noted. “Most of the performers who have been at the Kirby Center since last year signed something for us to auction.”
To further support the local arts scene, a handful of artists will display their artwork during the event, including Brittany Boote, Naomi Martin and Tom Martin, with others to be announced.
“I think it’s a win-win-win,” Beekman said. “We get to showcase all of the great local talent, great local restaurants and great local wineries and breweries while also helping to underwrite our children’s educational programs, especially in a time when all of these art and music classes are being cut from our schools.”


If you go
What: Kirby Fest — A Night of Pints, Pinot and Performing Arts
When: Saturday, April 21, 5 to 8 p.m.
Where: F.M. Kirby Center for the Performing Arts, 71 Public Square, Wilkes-Barre
Details: Tickets cost $30 for nonmembers and $25 for members in advance, and $35 at the door.
Online: kirbycenter.org