By Jerry Lynott, Wilkes-Barre Times Leader
WILKES-BARRE — Ron Felton has good reason to attend the city’s second annual Multicultural Festival and Parade next month.
Mayor Tony George named the former president of the local NAACP chapter grand marshal of the parade and declared Sept. 15 Ronald Felton Day in Wilkes-Barre.
“It is a great honor,” Felton said while attending a brief ceremony Thursday at City Hall with his wife Peggy. “I wouldn’t have thought of it.”
But the mayor did.
“Nobody did more than what Ron did to bring this community together,” George said.
A proclamation issued by the mayor listed Felton’s contributions — 18 years as president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People Wilkes-Barre Branch 2306, trustee of the Bethel AME and Mt. Zion Baptist churches, husband of nearly 40 years, father, grandfather and former president of the South Wilkes-Barre Mini-Mohawks football.
George said he has been friends with Felton since 1989 when he moved to Wilkes-Barre and has often sought his counsel.
“We had our differences, but we were always able to compromise, ‘cause Ron is straightforward … and normally he’s always right. Except when I’m right,” George quipped.
“Any time people show you that kind of recognition, to me its means you must be doing something right,” Felton said. “Like I said, I wanted to be a positive force in the community and this is just great. This is a great experience. This is a great opportunity to be the grand marshal.”
Felton supported George when he ran for mayor in 2015 and credited him with keeping his promise to close City Hall for the Martin Luther King Day federal holiday.
“No one before him was as serious and took the lead, took the lead in actually making that happen and it did happen this year, so we’re deeply pleased,” Felton said. “Because it’s not a win for the NAACP, it’s a win for the entire community.”
Felton, 65, said he remains active in the NAACP and serves as its Eastern Sectional Director overseeing 20 branches in Pennsylvania. His wife is the state Youth Adviser for the NAACP.
He thanked George for the honor and added he was proud of his efforts to bring people together through a series of four racial summits and the Diversity Picnic that’s been held for 20 years.
“Things have changed. I would have to say, ‘Yes,’ things have changed for the better,” Felton acknowledged. “Does that mean there’s no other changes? No. No.”
The festival is one example of things changing for the better and there are nearly twice as many participants this year than last, added the mayor. It was one of his goals as mayor to bring people together, he said.
“And the only way you can do that is to show people their customs and let them know that they’re not much different. They might eat different food. They might dress differently, but we’re all the same,” George said.
Just look at the number of different types of restaurants downtown, said Patty Hughes, the city’s special events coordinator.
“So where can you get like French, Jamaican, Guyana, Indian, Thai, Japanese all on the same street … Arabic all in the downtown Wilkes-Barre,” Hughes asked.
“It’s definitely a melting pot on South Main Street of food.”
The festival starts at 11 a.m. with the parade stepping off at South Street and proceeding on South Main Street to Public Square. Entertainment begins at noon on the Square and lasts until 9 p.m. Merchants and food vendors will be located on the Square.