By Marcella Kester, Wilkes-Barre Times Leader
WILKES-BARRE — The line was painted. The gates were placed. All that was left for many parade enthusiasts Sunday was to let the parade begin, and hundreds packed the streets to see that happen.
The 37th annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade kicked off at 2 p.m. at South Main and Union streets, as many Northeastern schools, businesses and organizations made their way to the reviewing station at Public Square.
This year’s grand marshal was none other than Joseph A. Moran, a local longtime educator, coach, mentor and inspiration to many. Once at the reviewing booth, Moran sat with his family by his side as he watched over the remainder of the event, offering waves and smiles to those passing by.
While groups such as the Wyoming Valley Pipe and Drum Band offered music to get the crowd moving, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins mascot Tux interacted with children and his adult fans.
One group decided to use parade day as an opportunity to complete a badge.
Members from Girl Scout Troop 32115, of Duryea, decided to stock a pile of boxes of Girl Scout Cookies in a wagon and pull it around parts of Public Square, hoping to make a few sales and earn a “chilly” badge for their vests.
“The girls are trying to earn their ‘I froze my cookies off’ badge, and teach them the value of selling and interacting with customers,” said Vanessa Smith.
The group said they came out around 11:30 a.m., and were pleased with their sales as Wilkes-Barre resident Michael Ascenzi noticed the irresistible treats. Asking if they had a peanut butter cookie, Torrin Smith and Caitlin Strunk showed him their handmade list, which included peanut butter Do-si-dos, and Ascenzi didn’t think twice.
Although the blustery weather drew a smaller crowd, many attendees could be seen looking out of business windows on Main Street as they watched the parade pass by from a “warmer” distance. The Currys Donuts coffee shop on Public Square was no exception.
Inside, customers sat in chairs and booths drinking a variety of warm beverages as they watched the parade through the large glass windows. Shop employee Patti Watkins said that the crowd was relatively normal for a Sunday, with many opting for hot chocolate and the chance to warm up.
Seeking shelter from the chilly winds, some families chose to stand in front of the F.M. Kirby center, hoping the extended roof and walls would block the chilly gusts as the parade of firetrucks, floats, bands and business people passed by.
“We brought a friend who really wanted to come out,” said Kingston resident Lisa Caruthers.
With her was Ron Voelker, of Larksville, who said this is his first time at the event in 30 years. Admitting he enjoyed seeing the festivities, Voelker said he weather is just something one comes to expect when living in the state.
“It’s nice, it’s a real nice time,” he said. “But it’s Northeastern Pennsylvania — what are you gonna do? Get ready for the snow.”
As the final firetrucks and ambulances passed by, attendees began leaving the event and making their way back to their vehicles. As Mayor Tony George prepared to leave, he said he felt the parade was a success.
“It’s a great day for Wilkes-Barre, bringing these people in,” George said. “Too bad the weather wasn’t as warm as it was last year, but we had a great crowd and I’m very pleased with what happened today.”
George said his favorite part of the day was getting to spend time with Moran, the grand marshal.