WILKES-BARRE — Kirby Park was full of sobriety Saturday, as hundreds of recovering addicts flocked to the park for the Love of Recovery Festival.
The event featured musicians from Florida-based radio and production group Rockers In Recovery, as well as various speakers, vendors and more.
As Dr. Nicholas Colangelo walked around the park, he was greeted by dozens of attendees, each happily updating him with where they are at in their rehabilitation from drugs and alcohol. The Clearbrook Treatment Centers CEO said he was happy to play a part in staging the event for the first time.
“There’s a lot of people dying (from addiction),” Colangelo noted, “but there are also a lot of people getting better, too.”
Rockers In Recovery, founded by John Hollis in 2008, travels the country to participate in recovery-themed festivals through free concerts, podcasts, education and more. Colangelo said he first met Hollis about a decade ago, when he traveled to Florida to attend one of his events. Although Rockers In Recovery is for-profit, it works closely with addiction treatment centers near events they participate in, urging residents and businesses to support their hometown groups to help end addiction.
Hollis wanted to remind the public that people in recovery have a face and come from all walks of life — from doctors and lawyers to teachers and musicians.
Saturday’s festival marked the 27th event that Rockers In Recovery has participated in across the U.S., Hollis said.
And it brought some big names to the Wyoming Valley — performers such as Don Taylor from Lynyrd Skynyrd fame and David Uosikkinen of The Hooters played to the delight of many.
Standing next to the pavilion, Uosikkinen spoke about how music and recovery go hand-in-hand.
“Every time I come I feel like it renews my spirit, my sobriety. It’s a great event, and it’s about saving lives,” he said. “It’s things like this that always make me remember where I came from.”
With the opioid epidemic reaching alarming rates nationwide, Uosikkinen believes events such as Love of Recovery are needed now more than ever. They allow active addicts to see there is a better way of life and recovery — as well as happiness — is possible.
As the group The Miz started to play a hoedown-like tune, Joanne Smith, donning a patriotic cowboy hat, eagerly danced to the beat in the audience. The Philadelphia resident said she has 30 years in recovery.
“I love celebrating sobriety,” she said, adding that music often sends a powerful message to many recovering addicts. “You don’t even have to be in recovery to be touched by the spirit here today.”