PITTSTON CITY—What’s a St. Patrick’s Day Parade without leprechauns?
Young hopefuls gathered at Pittston Memorial Library Feb. 24 to compete for the titles of Little Miss and Little Mister Pittston Leprechaun. The inaugural contest kicked off a week of festivities, culminating in Pittston’s 5th Annual St. Patrick’s Parade Saturday. Pittston City Special Events Coordinator Sarah Donahue said the parade committee modeled the competition after Pittston Tomato Festival’s Little Miss and Mister Tomato.
“We talked about it for the past couple years, it’s come up in committee discussions, should we do it should we not do it, and finally for the fifth annual we decided, ‘Let’s do it, we need something new, it’s a big year,’” Donahue said. “So, we decided this would be a really nice addition. Our parade focus is always the kids, we do everything for the kids, and so this was a really kid-friendly event.”
Five boys entered the Little Mister portion of the contest, while 10 girls vied for the title of Little Miss Pittston Leprechaun. Contestants — all between the ages 3 and 7 — were judged on their festive attire, as well as their answers to questions posed by Donahue.
The first Little Mister contestant, 7-year-old Exeter resident Matthew Olmstead, was quick to make a claim for the title before Donahue had asked a single question.
“My grand pap was born on St. Patrick’s Day and my mom’s name is Patty,” Matthew said.
His logic won over the crowd, and was enough to tie with 3-year-old Jimmy Corcoran for first runner-up. When Donahue asked Jimmy, of Exeter, about his favorite part of a parade, he said he likes large balloons like the ones paraded down New York City streets every Thanksgiving.
Donahue told Jimmy the St. Patrick’s Parade Committee will “work on” getting large balloons to parade down Main Street in the future.
Matthew and Jimmy were named first runners-up behind inaugural Little Mister Pittston Leprechaun Nicky Zbylicki. The 3-year-old Exeter resident said he already had a special place at home picked out for his trophy.
“Next to a picture of mommy,” Nicky said.
His mother, Mary Kate, said preparation for the contest was easy.
“I just let him be him,” Mary Kate said.
Nicky, who dressed for the contest in a shamrock-print sweater, was taken aback during his question-and-answer session when Donahue asked him if he liked leprechauns.
“Yeah,” he said, with conviction.
When asked why he likes St. Patrick’s Day, Nicky said “Well, because it’s amazing.”
Nicky will celebrate this as part of Pittston St. Patrick’s Parade, along with the first-ever Little Miss Pittston Leprechaun, Mila Schuler.
Mila, a 4-year-old Pittston resident, elicited awe from the crowd when she described a leprechaun.
“It’s a little fellow that’s all dressed up in green and leaves a pot of gold on the other side of the rainbow,” Mila said.
After the contest, she reaffirmed leprechauns are her favorite part of St. Patrick’s Day. Her mother Ryan said Mila’s knowledge of the Irish folk fairy made preparation unnecessary.
“She already knew about rainbows and the pot of gold, and she kind of did it on her own,” Ryan said. “She said, ‘I know what to do. I’m a little nervous, but I can do it.’”
Mila said it felt good to be a leprechaun. Then, she held her new sash out and screamed.
The first runner-up for Little Miss Pittston Leprechaun Chelsea McFarland also demonstrated a strong knowledge of leprechauns.
“They’re a little guy that wears a green suit, and they have a black hat and they have a pot with gold in it on the other side of the rainbow,” McFarland said.
For Chelsea, a 5–year-old Pittston Township resident, the best part of the parade is personal.
“My daddy,” Chelsea said when Donahue asked what her favorite part of Pittston St. Patrick’s Parade is. “And the animals.”
The first runners-up and Little Pittston Leprechauns were decided by a panel of four judges, including Tina Rava.
Rava, a kindergarten reading specialist at Pittston Area School District, said it was hard to break from her teacher mindset and pick favorites.
“I absolutely love children, so this was one of the most difficult jobs I’ve ever had,” Rava said. “It was really hard. I was looking at how they were dressed, did they go to the parade, do they know what a leprechaun is?”
Rava was particularly impressed by Mila.
“Her personality was unbelievable,” Rava said. “When she won, she almost cried. And she’s 4!”
Another judge, Pittston Tomato Festival Queen Britney Cheskiewicz, said she enjoyed being on the other side of the table during a contest. She said the experience is valuable for contestants, win or lose.
“It’s really empowering because things like this are what helped me get to where I am today,” Cheskiewicz said. “I’ve been competing in pageants for a long time and things like this helped me come out of my shell.”
Donahue said the contest is now a permanent fixture of parade week.
“In the City of Pittston and the Greater Pittston area, we love having events for kids to grow up with,” Donahue said. “This is their hometown, and we want them to grow up knowing they didn’t have to go to Wilkes-Barre or Scranton if they didn’t want to. We want them to grow up and, hopefully, take their own children to them someday.”
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