WEST PITTSTON — With a cold and sometimes arduous winter behind them, area residents took advantage of the West Pittston Cherry Blossom Festival on Saturday to enjoy fellowship with friends and neighbors, many of them that they had not seen since last autumn.
And, oh yes, they also had some fun and enjoyed the spring weather.
“The turnout is great, truly embracing a community spirit,” said Ken Kopetchny, of West Pittston.
The event kicked off with a parade, complete with boy and girl scouts, Little Leaguers, floats and, of course, fire trucks. Area officials were also represented, including West Pittston Mayor Tony Denisco, Luzerne County District Attorney Stephanie Salvantis and Eileen Cipriani, Aaron Kaufer and Gary Mack, candidates for state representative.
Grand Marshall Roy Speece led the parade.
Although skies were threatening, the sun peeked through the clouds as if welcoming the day’s activities.
The parade culminated with a welcome by festival Chairman Robert Messina and an invocation by Dan Nichols, pastor of Restored Church.
The festival provided a sense of creativity and growth, which has sustained the event through its 43 years.
Sales of novel arts and crafts were a favorite of attendees. Over 40 vendors presented their wares, which included handmade clothing, artwork and home-improvement products.
Many attendees said the unique offerings would make wonderful Mother’s Day gifts.
Those who brought their appetite with them were certainly not disappointed.
Chili dogs, pizza, sausage and peppers, potato pancakes and baked goods were among delicious culinary offerings.
Looking back to the first festival in 1971 when food was limited to hot dogs and soda, Saturday’s food tent surrounded by hungry attendees was a testament to the long-term growth of the festival.
The festival also brought a bit of competition with a Little Miss Cherry Blossom contest open to young ladies between 5 and 8 years old. Participants in Saturday’s contest were featured in the parade and also performed a talent. A fun question time followed.
Among children, pony rides and the bounce house were certainly favorites. Many youngsters simply enjoyed time outdoors, playing aside the Susquehanna River.
Jamie Donnelly, of West Pittston, and son, Hunter, 11, thought the day brought the perfect opportunity for a bike ride, food, and fun.
“We thought hearing the fire truck sirens was especially exciting,” said Jamie Donnelly.
Various types of music were scheduled at the event’s band shell, from contemporary to country, and residents were quick to tap their foot and occasionally offer a few dance steps.
To many attendees, the day was especially sweet because of their memories of 2011 flooding. Many said the festival was a celebration of spring and the resiliency of area residents, which made the event possible.
The festival concludes today.