Wilkes-Barre holds annual Multicultural Festival and Parade

·3 min read

Sep. 18—WILKES-BARRE — People from all different backgrounds, cultures and walks of life, joined together in celebration of what makes them all so unique.

That's what the city of Wilkes-Barre is all about, and that's what the city's annual Multicultural Festival and Parade highlights each year.

With parade grand marshal Arthur Breese leading the way, the fifth annual Multicultural Parade marched its way down South Main Street, dazzling onlookers with dancing, singing and representation from a number of groups from different backgrounds, but all calling the Diamond City home.

"This is important because it shows the different diversities that make up the city of Wilkes-Barre," said Mayor George Brown after the parade came to rest, leading right into the all-day Multicultural Festival. "They're proud of their ancestry, proud to show their colors and the flags of their countries. ... That's what this is all about."

A tradition that's quickly become a favorite for many around the city, this year's festival and parade brought food trucks, vendors, performers and folks just proud to fly their own flag and celebrate their culture to Public Square.

The festivities kicked off shortly after 11 a.m., when the parade stepped off from the intersection of South Street and South Main Street, making its way through the downtown to Public Square, with eager spectators waiting all around to catch a glimpse of the procession (and, for the younger spectators in the crowd, a chance to stock up on candy).

The colors of Puerto Rico, Mexico, the Dominican Republic and many more corners of the world were represented in Saturday's parade, as were dedications to the city's African-American and LGBT communities.

Leading the way was Breese, who was named grand marshal by the mayor and given a proclamation in his honor in a ceremony at City Hall last week.

Following Breese was Mayor Brown himself, along with members of city council, State Rep. Eddie Day Pashinski and a very special visitor: Carlos Obrador Garrido Cuesta, the Head Consul from the Mexican consulate in Philadelphia.

The consul general made his first visit to Wilkes-Barre for last year's Multicultural Festival, and promised to make it a yearly stop, making good on that promise Saturday.

Spirits were high in the crowd as each group in the parade made their way down Main Street, playing music and encouraging a good time to be had by all.

For many, the Multicultural Festival was the best of both worlds: a day of fun and celebration, but also a day to recognize and honor the wonderful mix of races, ethnicities and backgrounds that make up Wilkes-Barre.

"It's important because we live among all types of ethnic groups and races," said Jose Roman, who sported the colors of Puerto Rico along with Mario Velazquez and Fernando Freyer as the parade went by, with the group posing for a photo with Pashinski as he passed.

"One of the ways we promote our self-esteem and our creativity is to have these kinds of events," Roman said. "They bring awareness of who we are, and what we contribute to society."

After the parade, all were invited back to the Square to kick off the Festival proper, which went on until 7 p.m. Saturday and featured live performances, good food and a number of vendors selling clothes, jewelry and more.

Plenty of local organizations were also represented at the Festival, including Wilkes-Barre's chapter of the NAACP.

"Being together, smell all the great food, being able to connect with each other ... I think that's very important," said NAACP Wilkes-Barre chapter president Jimel Calliste. "Being here and celebrating each other's culture, it doesn't get any better than that."