The new executive director of the West Virginia Italian Heritage Festival said Wednesday she hopes to maintain the event's success and strengthen its traditions.
Members of the festival board announced Wednesday that West Virginia native Shelia Hauser will succeed Rosyln B. Queen, who announced her retirement in 1999. Queen, who has directed the festival for 14 years, will assist the board in a consulting capacity through September.
Hauser, who has worked with arts-related non-profit organizations in Houston, Texas, said she was impressed with the enthusiasm for the Italian Heritage Festival, which began in 1979.
"I feel that when we present our culture to other people, we're giving them a chance to imbibe our traditions," Hauser said. "Most people don't get the chance to travel all over the world, and cultural festivals give them a very enriching experience.
"I'm excited by the prospect of working for the festival and I'm glad that Rosyln is staying on to help me through the first year," Hauser added.
Hauser was born in Huntington and has a bachelor of arts degree from Marshall University. After graduation, she became a free-lance artist and headed several non-profit organizations, including Creative Alternatives, which provided art education to seven Hous-ton area school districts and organized art events in the community.
Mary "Weege" Vargo, who chairs the festival board, said she believes Hauser will bring new opportunities to the festival. Vargo also noted that the fact Hauser is not an Italian-American only demonstrates that the festival offers something for everyone.
"We were impressed by her credentials and her tremendous experience in non-profit organizations," Vargo said.
Staff writer Shawn Gainer can be reached at 626-1442.