WEST PITTSTON — With spring comes cherry blossoms, and the borough’s accompanying festival in honor of them.
The 45th annual West Pittston Cherry Blossom Festival will be held on Saturday, April 30 and Sunday May 1.
“We’re really thrilled; it’s a festival that seems to stand the test of time,” said festival committee President Ralph Salerno. “There are so many festivals around the area that are no longer here. I was born and raised in West Pittston and there were so many. To see ours still going is pretty impressive.”
Festival activities will kick off at noon on April 30 with the parade beginning Cenera Auto Parts Parking Lot as it goes down Exeter Avenue to Wyoming Avenue and then to Philadelphia Avenue. The parade then goes over to Susquehanna Avenue and then it ends at the festival grounds right by the firefighters memorial bridge.
There will be no parking allowed between 11 a.m. and the time the parade concludes on the streets involved.
At 1 p.m. there will be an introduction by Salerno, as well as remarks from the parade’s Grand Marshal Rosalie Messina followed by playing of the “Star Spangled Banner” and the announcing of the festival’s scholarship winner.
The Little Miss Cherry Blossom contest takes place after the introductions and there will be performances throughout the afternoon from members of the David Blight Dance Studio, the Emerald Isle Step Dancers, the Perfect Harmony School of Music and magician Joe Housey.
On May 1, the Wyoming Area Drama Club will kick things off at noon by performing scenes from the musical “Grease,” followed the West Pittston Cherry Blossom’s Got Talent event.
There will be performances throughout the afternoon by the members of the Dance Theatre of Wilkes-Barre, the Perfect Harmony School of Music, the Dynamic Duo and the Irrefutables.
Food vendors will sell hamburgers, hot dogs, pizza, halushki, sausage and peppers to name a few throughout both days and there will also be arts and crafts vendors.
The festival will close at 5 p.m on May 1.
With much going on within two days, Salerno credits the borough and its workers for helping out and cooperating with the West Pittston Cherry Blossom Festival Committee.
“The borough is really great with us,” he said. “They cooperate 100 percent — the police department, public works and our mayor and council. We’ve never had an issue.”
Salerno, who has been on the festival committee since 1981, also acknowledges the hard work of his fellow committee members — Dan Didgeon, Toni Valenti, Lynda Hyzinski, Terri Zezza, Charlotte Keeney, Bob Messina, Becky Didgeon, Lori DeAngelo, Amie Strobel, Gina Malsky, Pat Messina and Chris DeNardi.
Salerno said they typically begin meetings in September to discuss festival plans, and then meet monthly until two months before the festival, when they start meeting weekly.
“We’ve been doing it for so long, we have a system down that we know what needs to be done,” he said.
While planning for the event has taken on a life of its own, setting up Susquehanna Avenue is still the hardest part of the job, according to Salerno.
“We start the Monday leading up to the event, laying out the tents and the band shell comes,” he said. “Wednesday we start bringing down everything for our food stands like stoves, fryers, stands and layout the tents for the arts and crafts people.”
Going into its 45th year, Salerno looks forward to the event and calls it a “family reunion” for the borough.
“I like to call it a huge family reunion because it’s the first outdoor festival that’s going on,” he said. “Everyone’s been cooped all winter and they can’t wait to get out. Usually, the weather is nice and people who live out of town come back in. That’s what I really enjoy.”