WILKES-BARRE — Crowds turned out in droves and the weather cooperated — at least until mid-afternoon — for the first day of the 41st annual Cherry Blossom Festival at Kirby Park.
After a long winter, the park and the surrounding area felt alive as the sun shined brightly before rain arrived Saturday. There was even some baseball being played on the park’s diamonds.
“I’m glad to finally be out of the house and enjoying the outdoors,” said Hailey Murray, who attended the festival with some friends and family. “We try to come every year. It’s a great way to start up the summer, see some neighbors and friends, and see what Wilkes-Barre has to offer.”
Paige Dean, an aspiring photographer, enjoyed all of the event’s photo opportunities — from dogs, to ducks in a pond, to hand-made sundresses.
“It’s a beautiful springtime event to shoot. Everything is bright and everyone is happy,” Dean said. “As an artist, I love supporting other crafters and small businesses.”
One of those small businesses was Skook House of Jerky, a popular stop for meat lovers and daredevils seeking out exotic game or ultra-spicy jerky. The business, from Orwigsburg, is a repeat vendor at the festival, Jeff Dunkle explained.
“We did the Wilkes-Barre markets for a few years and the mayor’s office reached out to us last year to ask if we’d like to do the festival as well. We did well last year, so we did it this year, too,” Dunkle said.
Other vendors featured handmade jewelry, face painting, airbrush tattoos, wine tasting, plus many more kid- and adult-friendly activities.
The 12th annual Pirouettes in the Park took place under the pavilion and featured dance troupes performing to music.
Sunday will feature the festival pageant from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., Stephen L. Perillo and The Followers Praise Band from 1:30 p.m. to 2:45 p.m., and national recording artist Benjamin Horrevoets, 3 to 4:30 p.m.