WEST PITTSTON — Jim Manganiello, Jr. has participated in the annual West Pittston Cherry Blossom Parade his entire life as either a Little League player or coach.
This year he’ll be in a different spotlight as he’s been named Grand Marshal for the event’s 47th year.
“I never really gave being a Grand Marshal to the Cherry Blossom Festival a thought,” said Manganiello, 64. “I just hope that we’re going to have great weather, which it looks like we should be good.”
The parade will be held at noon Saturday, May 5.
Manganiello is a lifelong West Pittston resident who is constantly working with the community children in some capacity.
He currently coaches West Pittston Little League and has been a coach for over 30 years. He serves as the organization’s vice president, as well.
Manganiello also coached the West Pittston Rams football team, Wyoming Area High School wrestling and Wyoming Area junior high baseball teams.
He was also involved in Cub Scouts at one point.
It’s Manganiello’s willingness to better youth that made selecting him this year’s Grand Marshal a no brainer for the West Pittston Cherry Blossom Committee.
“Between the baseball, Little League, wrestlers at Wyoming Area School District, he does a lot in the community with the children,” said Pat Messina, committee chairperson. “He’s a Good Samaritan for the Grand Marshal.”
Aside from coaching, Manganiello also helps children by teaching.
He teaches Theology at Holy Cross High School in Dunmore, and taught Social Studies at Bishop Hafey in Hazleton from 1979 to 2007.
“I always wanted to get into coaching, and I figured the best way to get into coaching was to get into teaching,” Manganiello said. “Back in my day, all of the coaches came from the teaching ranks.”
While he has a lot of responsibilities shaping the minds of children, Manganiello won’t have many responsibilities for the parade — just smile, wave and give a speech during the opening ceremonies.
He said it will be odd not marching with the Little League, though.
“It’s going to be different,” he said.
Aside from the parade, the 47th Annual Cherry Blossom Festival consists of other events on May 5 and 6, such as live entertainment, the Little Miss Cherry Blossom Contest, and a brief performance of “The Little Mermaid” by the Wyoming Area Drama Club.
There will also be food vendors and arts and craft vendors.
Messina said food preparations are already underway.
“We go down Wednesday, set everything up, line up the tents, set up the kitchen and, while we’re doing that, the ladies are at the Immaculate Conception church preparing the food,” he said.
The biggest question of all was whether the event would have to be relocated thanks to the ice jam from this past winter that left ice and debris along the Susquehanna River bank.
Messina said the area is in good condition now and the festival will go on as planned in its usual spot, although he indicated the committee had a backup plan if needed.
“We were thinking about moving our site to the (West Pittston) Armory because the fish commission is buying it,” he said. “We wanted to work on a deal, but we don’t have to worry about that right now.”
With the event approaching, Messina is hoping for good weather and a better turnout.
“This is the first function to bring the people out to enjoy our town and enjoy the riverbank,” he said. I just want to get the people out to see we’re here and enjoy the festival.”
Reach Jimmy Fisher at 570-704-3972 or on Twitter @SD_JimmyFisher