Union members celebrate organized labor at Kirby Park festival

By Dan Stokes - [email protected]
Serenity Washington, 2, of Kingston, holds a craft airplane during Monday’s festivities at Kirby Park in Wilkes-Barre for the NEPA Labor Day Celebration & Festival. - Amanda Hrycyna | For Times Leader
Aaron Smith, of Bull Dog BBQ, puts together a pulled pork meal for a customer during the NEPA Labor Day Celebration & Festival on Monday at Kirby Park. - Amanda Hrycyna | For Times Leader
Toni Mathis, of Wilkes-Barre, looks over the raffle baskets Monday during the Labor Day Festival to celebrate unions at Kirby Park in Wilkes-Barre. - Amanda Hrycyna | For Times Leader
Stone Magagna, 15, of Mountain Top plays along to a Social Distortion song with other Rockology Music Academy students during Monday’s sixth annual NEPA Labor Day Celebration & Festival at Kirby Park in Wilkes-Barre. - - Amanda Hrycyna | For Times Leader
Retired veteran Stevo Krulick, of Swoyersville, warms up before his solo acoustic performance Monday at Kirby Park during the NEPA Labor Day Celebration & Festival. The event was sponsored by the Greater Wilkes-Barre Labor Council. - - Amanda Hrycyna | For Times Leader
Committee member Jody Weinreich of Allentown tears off instant bingo tickets during the sixth annual NEPA Labor Day Celebration & Festival hosted by the Greater Wilkes-Barre Labor Council on Monday at Kirby Park. The event celebrated the important place of unions in American society. - - Amanda Hrycyna | For Times Leader

WILKES-BARRE — Union strong!

That was the theme of Monday’s sixth annual NEPA Labor Day Celebration & Festival hosted by the Greater Wilkes-Barre Labor Council.

“Labor Day speaks for itself,” said Joe Padavan, co-chair of the festival staged at Kirby Park. “We are here for all our unions, especially our veterans.”

Padavan, who serves as the president of the Greater Wilkes-Barre Labor Council, said his group also volunteers at the VA Hospital.

“We help out inbound patients,” he said. “We take them for dinner, play cards with them and stuff like that.”

Although the Labor Day festival was free, food, beverages and raffles were sold with the proceeds going toward funding for several local veteran projects and organizations.

Aside from the labor council’s dedication to assisting veterans, one of their other main focuses of the afternoon was to educate children about the importance of a unionized workforce.

“It’s important to teach the children about how critical labor unions are and what family values mean,” said Padavan.

A lot of planning goes into the event.

“Luckily, we’ve received a lot of great support,” he said. “It is a tough job, but we’ve been doing this for six years now so everything kind of just falls in to place.”

If people took away anything from the day, Padavan was hoping the message of union solidarity and family values hit home.

“It’s a very political season,” Padavan said. “We just need to speak up for our unions and stick together with our families.”

Former event organizer Walt Klepaski, 71, also offered remarks on the Labor Day festivities.

“It’s important to get the word out and increase the size of membership in labor unions,” said Klepaski, a retired AFL-CIO community services liaison. “This holiday also represents the sacrifices the men and women made to make the quality of life better for the working people.”

Kelpaski echoed Padavan’s emphasis on educating children about unions.

“Sadly, they don’t teach the accomplishments of labor unions in our school systems today,” he said. “That’s why an event like today is important to teach the values labor unions provide and the rich history that labor unions have in America.”

“I just appreciate everyone who came out to the event today,” he added. “I look forward to everyone’s continued support.”

Several local politicians visited, including Congressman Matt Cartwright, D-Moosic, state Rep. Eddie Day Pashinski, D-Wilkes-Barre, and state Rep. Gerald Mullery, D-Newport Township.

Serenity Washington, 2, of Kingston, holds a craft airplane during Monday’s festivities at Kirby Park in Wilkes-Barre for the NEPA Labor Day Celebration & Festival.
https://www.timesleader.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/web1_ttl090418laborday-1-1-1-1.jpgSerenity Washington, 2, of Kingston, holds a craft airplane during Monday’s festivities at Kirby Park in Wilkes-Barre for the NEPA Labor Day Celebration & Festival. Amanda Hrycyna | For Times Leader

Aaron Smith, of Bull Dog BBQ, puts together a pulled pork meal for a customer during the NEPA Labor Day Celebration & Festival on Monday at Kirby Park.
https://www.timesleader.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/web1_ttl090418laborday-2-1-1-1.jpgAaron Smith, of Bull Dog BBQ, puts together a pulled pork meal for a customer during the NEPA Labor Day Celebration & Festival on Monday at Kirby Park. Amanda Hrycyna | For Times Leader

Toni Mathis, of Wilkes-Barre, looks over the raffle baskets Monday during the Labor Day Festival to celebrate unions at Kirby Park in Wilkes-Barre.
https://www.timesleader.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/web1_ttl090418laborday-3-1-1-1.jpgToni Mathis, of Wilkes-Barre, looks over the raffle baskets Monday during the Labor Day Festival to celebrate unions at Kirby Park in Wilkes-Barre. Amanda Hrycyna | For Times Leader

Stone Magagna, 15, of Mountain Top plays along to a Social Distortion song with other Rockology Music Academy students during Monday’s sixth annual NEPA Labor Day Celebration & Festival at Kirby Park in Wilkes-Barre.
https://www.timesleader.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/web1_ttl090418laborday-4-1-1-1.jpgStone Magagna, 15, of Mountain Top plays along to a Social Distortion song with other Rockology Music Academy students during Monday’s sixth annual NEPA Labor Day Celebration & Festival at Kirby Park in Wilkes-Barre. Amanda Hrycyna | For Times Leader

Retired veteran Stevo Krulick, of Swoyersville, warms up before his solo acoustic performance Monday at Kirby Park during the NEPA Labor Day Celebration & Festival. The event was sponsored by the Greater Wilkes-Barre Labor Council.
https://www.timesleader.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/web1_ttl090418laborday-5-1-1-1.jpgRetired veteran Stevo Krulick, of Swoyersville, warms up before his solo acoustic performance Monday at Kirby Park during the NEPA Labor Day Celebration & Festival. The event was sponsored by the Greater Wilkes-Barre Labor Council. Amanda Hrycyna | For Times Leader

Committee member Jody Weinreich of Allentown tears off instant bingo tickets during the sixth annual NEPA Labor Day Celebration & Festival hosted by the Greater Wilkes-Barre Labor Council on Monday at Kirby Park. The event celebrated the important place of unions in American society.
https://www.timesleader.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/web1_ttl090418laborday-6-1-1-1.jpgCommittee member Jody Weinreich of Allentown tears off instant bingo tickets during the sixth annual NEPA Labor Day Celebration & Festival hosted by the Greater Wilkes-Barre Labor Council on Monday at Kirby Park. The event celebrated the important place of unions in American society. Amanda Hrycyna | For Times Leader
Holiday event focuses on importance of organized labor

By Dan Stokes

[email protected]

Reach Dan Stokes at 570-991-6389 or on Twitter @ByDanStokes

Reach Dan Stokes at 570-991-6389 or on Twitter @ByDanStokes