WEST PITTSTON — Just a few days before the festival, the annual event lost one of its biggest supporters. However, the show went on along the Susquehanna River with a touch of class dedicated to the former resident.
West Pittston Mayor Tony Denisco passed away on Tuesday, April 26. During the introduction and opening ceremonies of the 45th annual West Pittston Cherry Blossom Festival, Denisco was honored for his dedication to West Pittston.
At noon, the annual parade stepped off from Cenera Auto Parts to Wyoming Avenue, down to Philadelphia Avenue and evenutally onto Susquehanna Avenue and finishing at the festival grounds. This year’s grand marshal was Rosalie Messina, a dedicated Cubmaster from Pack 302 in West Pittston. Messina has been involved in Scouts for 38 years.
Her biggest enjoyment of the day was passing out candy during the parade. She sat in the back of a pickup truck for the entirety of the parade route.
“This was great because I love kids,” Messina said. “That was my thing — passing out candy — just to see the expression on their faces and their smiles.”
Messina was called up to the stage during the festival’s introduction and was presented with a plaque. She will be at the festival for most of the weekend, at the Boy Scouts food stand. Messina has also helped the Cherry Blossom Committee any way she could over the years.
“It means a lot,” she said. “Having this honor means a lot. I’ve dedicated my whole life and heart and soul into this.”
Master of ceremonies was committee member Gina Malsky, who also runs the Little Miss Cherry Blossom Contest, which was held on Saturday afternoon. She started the festival off by speaking highly of the mayor. She ended her speech to a standing ovation from the hundreds of people in the crowd.
“What an appropriate way and to say thanks to a man that wore many hats,” Malsky said. “Whether you call him mayor, mister, brother, dad, papa, sir, uncle or friend, Tony Denisco was one great guy.”
West Pittston Council member Pete Musinski spoke on behalf of the mayor, who always played a major role in the festival. Musinski said he’s known Denisco for 36 years. Musinski said it was just three months after Denisco was named mayor that he had to deal with the remnants of Tropical Storm Lee in West Pittston.
Denisco handled it perfectly, according to the councilman.
“He faced devastation in this town,” Musinski said. “It’s an amazing thing how this town recovered so quickly.”
Musinski also thanked the committee for staying strong for the past 45 years.
“It’s a wonderful day for a celebration today,” he said. “Forty-five years is a long time. Without them it would not happen.”
State Rep. Aaron Kaufer, R-Kingston, was on hand at the festival to award a citation from the state to the West Pittston Cherry Cherry Blossom Committee. Kaufer also remembered the former mayor, who he was proud to call a friend.
“Mayor, constable, every hat in the world — he was a very special man,” Kaufer said. “I was proud to call him my friend. I’m so happy to see his family here today.”
The West Pittston Cherry Blossom Festival continues at noon on Sunday, May 1 with a performance by the Wyoming Area Drama Club. The festival closes at 5 p.m.
Reach Nick Wagner at 570-991-6406 or on Twitter @Dispatch_Nick