By Bill O’Boyle, Wilkes-Barre Times Leader
WILKES-BARRE — The city is preparing for its inaugural Multicultural Parade & Festival, set for Saturday and Sunday.
The event will celebrate the city’s diverse cultural and ethnic heritage through music and food. Mayor Tony George said the parade/festival is a great opportunity for organizations and businesses to support and honor the backgrounds of the city’s residents.
“When I began my campaign for mayor, I knew it was important to bring the community together,” said George, who took office in January 2016. “As the national news networks have shown us, there is hostility in the air, in cities and towns across the nation. Fortunately, Wilkes-Barre is a city that is committed to celebrating the diversity of our residents and sharing our cultural traditions with our neighbors — people of all ethnicity, religions, cultures and creeds.”
The mayor said that in Wilkes-Barre and surrounding towns, most people can trace their grandparents and great-grandparents as immigrants to the United States. George said he grew up in a Lebanese-American family that still expresses its heritage through language and food.
“Remembering and continuing our families’ heritages though language, food, traditions and stories is what makes NEPA such a great place to live,” George said. “We are all Americans, yet we still honor the traditions that our ancestors practiced as a connection to their homeland.”
George said our differences make us stronger as a community and bring new perspectives to the challenges we face every day.
“Although our nation may feel divided, our community is strong and will continue to stand united,” he said.
Angel Jirau, head of the Spanish American Leaders Serving All (SALSA), will march in the parade Saturday morning with the Wilkes-Barre Latino Softball League. Jirau serves on the planning committee for the Multicultural Festival.
“I’ve approached the city about having a festival like this for years,” Jirau said. “Mayor George was very receptive to the idea, so we had a meeting and talked about ways to get the community working together. And what better way to bring people together than music, food and fun.”
Jirau said he expects hundreds of people to attend the event.
“This will be a festival that will offer the community the opportunity to get together, learn about each other and enjoy each other’s traditions,” he said.
The city is still seeking participants for the parade and festival. Participation in the parade, which starts at 11 a.m. on Saturday, is free and will be family-friendly.
Organizations and businesses interested in participating should contact Patty Hughes, the city’s special events coordinator, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Participants are asked to include any information they would like to share about the culture they are representing — traditional clothing, dances, and any other points of interest — so that it can be announced during the parade.