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Photo: Ralph Francello, License: N/A

GREATER PITTSTON PROGRESS FILE Emergency vehicles make their way along the Cherry Blossom Parade route through West Pittston. This year’s parade starts at noon Saturday, May 5.

There’s only a week until the 47th annual West Pittston Cherry Blossom Festival. Packed with two days of family-friendly entertainment, along with food, rides and arts and crafts, the festival will be held Saturday, May 5, and Sunday, May 6, on Susquehanna Avenue, adjacent to the Fire Fighters Memorial Bridge.

To kick off the event Saturday, the Cherry Blossom Parade will begin at noon, featuring West Pittston Little League, Boy and Girl Scouts, Meals on Wheels, American Red Cross, state and local officials, veterans groups, police and fire departments and other community groups.

According to Parade Chairman Ralph Salerno, the grand marshal will be Coach Jim Manganiello Jr., 64, of the West Pittston Little League, who has been a part of the team for 40 years.

Manganiello has marched in the parade for as long as he can remember.

“I’ve been marching since it started, back 47 years ago. I was marching for the West Pittston Little League,” Manganiello explained.

Manganiello wasn’t expecting to be selected grand marshal.

“I’m excited about it. I got the call and it was totally out of the blue for me,” he said.

Pat Messina, Cherry Blossom Festival president, said Manganiello’s selection reflects his commitment to the community.

“Normally what we do is we put a bunch of men and women on the table and we figure out who does the most for the community,” Messina said of the selection process. “This year, Jim Manganiello was picked because he does a lot for the community. He’s with the West Pittston Little League, he’s with the wrestlers, baseball and firemen. He’s busy, he does a lot for the community.”

Lineup for the parade will begin at 11:30 a.m. Participants may walk, be on float, vehicle or marching unit. The route is about two miles and will begin on Exeter Avenue to Wyoming Avenue then on to Philadelphia Avenue and ending on Susquehanna Avenue at the festival grounds.

“If anyone has not sent in a form or has not contacted me they are more than welcome to join in if they show up that day,” Salerno said.

As parking has been hectic in previous years from participants filing up the Cenera Auto Parts parking lot, Salerno wishes to inform participants there are some changes to this year’s parade.

“We’re asking all vehicles, excluding fire fighters and ambulance, to go down to Wilkins Street,” said Salerno. The lineup location for vehicles is across from Wyoming Valley Beverage and right onto Ledgewood Drive in the new development. That road enters into Cenera Auto Parts. “We want all vehicles on that road,” Salerno said.

After the parade, stay for the festival — a rite of spring in West Pittston. While it seemed this winter would never end, spring may finally be here and the cherry blossoms are beginning to bloom — just in time for the festivities.

“They are just starting to show,” Messina said during an interview last week. “By next week they should be out.”

“I just can’t wait to see everybody come down and spend some money, eat a lot of food, watch some entertainment, watch the Little Miss Cherry Blossoms do their little thing up there on the stage, and the bands ... I just can’t wait for all of this to happen,” Messina said.

“There’s gonna be loads and loads of things down there. Even a horse ride for the kids, even a dunk’em for the kids. .... It’s just a get together for the community,” he added.

Schedule of events

Saturday, May 5

After the parade, guests will be welcomed at 1 p.m. by Patrick Messina, president of the West Pittston Cherry Blossom Festival.

At 1:15 p.m., The Little Miss Cherry Blossom Contest will be held.

Joe Nardone’s “Rockology” School of Music will take the stage at 3 p.m. Rockology is the first music school created in the spirit of rock ‘n’ roll, according to Rockology’s website.

The second to last show will be Friendly Fyre at 4 p.m., featuring an energetic group of musicians playing various types of classic rock, R&B, country, blues and alternative music.

The last show has yet to be announced, but will begin at 5:15 p.m.

Sunday, May 6

Starting at noon, the Wyoming Area Drama Club will present a Disney classic “The Little Mermaid.”

At 12:30 p.m., West Pittston Cherry Blossom Festival will have an open mic for anybody wanting to join in on the fun.

Pittston’s David Blight School of Dance will perform at 1 p.m. The David Blight School of Dance offers classes in tap, jazz, ballet, pointe, hip-hop, lyrical and novelty, according to the school’s website.

Perfect Harmony School of Music will take the stage at 2 p.m. The school offers a variety of classes to choose from, including art, music, dance, theater and health.

At 3 p.m., Joe Nardone’s “Rockology” School of Music returns to the stage.

The last show of the day will be the band Flaxy Morgan at 4 p.m. They will be playing a plethora of music from classic rock ‘n’ roll to music from the ’80s. Featured members are drummer Richie Kossuth, lead vocalist Cierra Cellerari, lead guitarist and vocalist Chris Iorio, bass guitarist and vocalist Michael Iorio, and keyboardist and vocalist Frank Gruden.

The festival comes to a close at 5 p.m. Sunday.