WEST PITTSTON — Spring might have been late this year, but the Cherry Blossom Festival was right on time as hundreds of residents invaded Susquehanna Avenue to celebrate the 47th annual event.
Some residents chose to watch the parade, while others got a head start on enjoying food, music, games, and shopping at the festival grounds.
When the parade concluded, the grounds filled up quickly with residents who watched it and those who were in it such as this year’s Grand Marshal Jim Manganiello.
“It was nice — I got to ride in a car,” Manganiello said. “This was the first time I didn’t have to march in it.”
Manganiello previously marched in the parade with the West Pittston Little League, both as a player when he was younger and, most recently, as a coach.
Gina Malsky began the opening ceremony by thanking everyone for attending and then introducing Wyoming Area High School senior Sarah Baylor, recipient of this year’s Cherry Blossom Festival Committee Scholarship.
“I just want to thank the West Pittston Cherry Blossom Festival Committee for choosing me and, although I am going away to school, West Pittston will forever be my home,” Baylor said to the audience. “My roots are here, and I’m excited to use my roots to my advantage for the great start that I had to push me forward.”
Baylor will attend Kutztown University in the fall.
Cherry Blossom Festival Committee Chairperson Pat Messina then thanked everyone for attending and introduced Manganiello.
Manganiello was chosen as this year’s Grand Marshal for his dedication to helping children through sports by coaching and through academics by teaching.
“I do it for the kids,” Manganiello said to the audience about his decision to coach and teach. “They’re our future. It’s not just to teach them about sports, but it’s to teach the kids about respect, and other aspects of life and help them develop into well-rounded individuals to get them ready for life.”
From there, the festival continued with the Little Miss Cherry Blossom Contest, more live entertainment and plenty of food for everyone.
As Messina made his way back from the stage to the cooking area, he couldn’t help but notice the turnout.
“Excellent turnout,” he said. “I’m very happy. I mean, there’s no rain, no nothing that stops the people from coming down.”
With more festivities ahead and food to make, Messina said he’s looking forward to relaxing once the event concludes Sunday evening.
He also hopes to make money to donate to the Boy Scout Troop 302 of Corpus Christi Parish, which gets $50 from the committee towards a camping trip for helping with the event.
“Last year we didn’t make much,” Messina said. “We had nothing but rain, and the people didn’t show up so we didn’t make money. The Scouts got hurt going to camp, and that’s what we work for — these kids to go to camp. We were hurting last year.”
Reach Jimmy Fisher at 570-704-3972 or on Twitter @SD_JimmyFisher