Paul J. Reedy is proudly 100 percent Irish, which was never more prevalent when he set out on a mission earlier this year to raise money for new Irish flags to be hung in downtown Pittston after the city’s lighting standards changed.
Those he told about it assumed he wouldn’t raise enough for 40 flags at $50 a piece. They were all sold in a matter of days, prompting him to successfully raise money for an additional 40.
“Everybody was absolutely amazed that I was able to raise $8,000 in less than three or four weeks. Really, it sold itself. I started a Facebook page and people knew that if they purchased the flag, it would be in memory of their loved one. The idea took off like hotcakes. They sold themselves,” Reedy, a Pittston Township resident, explained.
“The two largest populations here are Italian and Irish, and I think in a lot of families you have a mixture of both.”
It’s easy, then, to see why Pittston Councilman Michael Lombardo and former Mayor Michael Lombardo approached him about bringing back the city’s long dormant St. Patrick’s Day Parade. Former President Harry S. Truman marched in the Tomato Capital’s parade in 1956, but the annual event ended soon after that, Reedy said.
With two St. Patrick’s Day parades in the area already well established, though, how will this one stand out?
“We’re going to be different than Scranton and Wilkes-Barre. We’re doing a festival in conjunction with the parade all in the same day,” Reedy said. “That was part of the key to having Pittston find its own niche.”
Set for Saturday, March 8, the Irish celebration will be taking cues from similar festivals in Bethlehem and Split Rock, drawing authentic Irish vendors and entertainers from across the country.
“It’s going to benefit every single downtown business, and there are a lot of up-and-coming businesses in the downtown as of lately. Pittston has been growing in leaps and bounds in the last few years, and other cities are actually now stopping and taking a look at Pittston and using Pittston as a model for how they want to move forward and try and revitalize their downtowns,” Reedy noted, citing the Tomato Festival and Second Friday Art Walks as examples.
“Anything that Pittston has been doing within the last year or so has been nothing but a complete success. The Friday night art walks had crowds of people that I have not seen since I was a child going to the old sidewalk sales on Main Street.”
Now co-chairman of the Greater Pittston St. Patrick’s Parade and Irish Festival, Reedy and the planning committee have created Shamrocktoberfest to raise funds for the parade and festival, which will be held on Saturday, Nov. 2, from 6 to 9 p.m. at the Susquehanna Brewing Company (635 S. Main St., Pittston).
“For $20, there will be beer tastings, tours of the brewery, we’re going to have a large selection of gift baskets, live music, soft drinks, and the menu is going to be assorted foods from just about every restaurant in the Greater Pittston area,” he listed.
“(That’s) unique unto itself because every one of these restaurants has their own little niche and their own unique flavor, so there will be samplings of each restaurant.”
That all sounds like a lot of fun, but for Reedy, the best part may be that he no longer has to spread the Irish pride all on his own.
“Personally, my favorite part of it will be seeing everybody coming out and getting together and having a good time. I love collaboration. I love seeing people get together. I love seeing the way that this has started from scratch to where we have an active committee that meets almost every week at this point,” he enthused.
“We have very, very talented and devoted people on our committee who come every week and work. Everybody’s got a talent, and we’re tapping into that.”