My Slice of the World; Wilkes-Barre Scranton Pennsylvania

I have not been compensated to write this blog post. This is my personal account and experience living in my slice of America, I am hoping to be featured for the Keep America Beautiful celebration by Dropcam.

If you’ve watched The Office, then you’ve seen a portion of the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton area in Pennsylvania. Aside from this popular show, our area is know for the WB-Scranton Penguins hockey team, the Mohegan Sun Casino and Arena, a big St. Patrick’s Day parade and celebration, the Yankees minor league team the ‘Rail Riders‘ (yes the Yankees in PA), it’s recent rank as 13th for the ‘Most Miserable Cities‘, it’s out of control Crime Rate per capita and drama/crime at the Sherman Hills apartment complex.
What you don’t see in the above list of Wilkes-Barre/Scranton highlights are the people living in rural regions and the suburbs. Families like mine who have been stuck indoors through a wickedly cold winter…and who are ready to emerge and celebrate spring! Families who have their seeds planted in windows, daffodils sprouting up in their gardens and kids running around in 40+ degree weather in shorts….because compared to negative temperatures we experienced just a few weeks earlier, it’s really warm!
If you walked through our neighborhoods you could see people getting ready for local festivals, and bazaars. Homeowners uncovering pools that may only be open for two months. Back yard BBQs and families preparing to host 4th of July parties. Carloads flocking to State Parks and drive-in movie theaters, crowded farm markets and smart locals gathering in homes and restaurants who are set  on protecting our area from more economical disaster brought by chemical gas drilling known as Fracking.
I originally grew up in this area, attended local high-school and over the years I have learned to appreciate and celebrate our region. I’ve lived in other areas in the United States and returned to this area while expecting my first son. Although I often dream of flying south to Florida, I enjoy the protection the mountains bring my family from floods, storms and tornadoes and the passion W-B/Scranton residents have for life.
Wilkes-Barre/Scrantonians love to celebrate our North-Eastern region with festivals during warmer months. This area boasts roots in Italian heritage, and while many of us have since joined America’s melting pot by marrying persons from other cultures, we still LOVE to celebrate with events like the Pittston Tomato Festival and the La Festa Italiana.
The Pittston Tomato Festival is kicked off annually with a tomato ‘fight’ and offers cuisine from local Italian restaurants, entertainment and is packed with locals celebrating everything Italian. Watch this wonderful video made by a local recording expert Video Innovations to get a taste of our Tomato Festival!

(This video is from the festival website and used with permission.)

After the Pittston Tomato Festival winds down, we look forward to La Festa Italiana which takes place in the heart of Scranton. This celebration surrounds the courthouse with food, vendors, and entertainment. The Bindi Italian desert stand (possibly my favorite) is a big hit and no one seems to mind waiting in line! The scent from local favorites like gnocchi and sausage and peppers fills the air, and friends and families are seen smiling and enjoying a beautiful time together.

(Photo used with permission from La Festa Italiana)
     The defrosting of PA also means that it’s time for Farmer’s Markets. Locals flock to these venues to enjoy regionally grown produce and goods. One hotspot is located at ‘The Square’ in downtown Wilkes-Barre and every Thursday tents pop up in the early morning to prepare for shoppers. The Farmer’s Market offers produce from vendors that varies as the season progresses and includes local honey, apples, everything green, pumpkins in the fall, jams and jellies and even pastries.
     Another local stop that makes our region wonderful, is the Lands at Hillside Farms. The local 412 acre non-profit sustainable farm offers milk from their grass fed dairy cows in returnable glass bottles, eggs from their hens, pony rides on the weekends, barns open to the public and year round educational events. Those who stop at Hillside can’t pass up the Ice Cream offered in many flavors and combinations. Long lines wait to get a cone at the dairy, others grab a 1/2 gallon to enjoy at home. Little ones, and maybe some big ones, can stroll the grounds and feed the sheep, ducks, peacocks, two quaky alpacas and get a taste of life on a farm from a responsible source. (Below clip is a snip from their homepage, please visit their Website).

If you haven’t heard of a Bazaar, then you need to visit this region. Summer time is known for weekends filled with potato pancakes, raffles and funnel cakes at local church Bazaars. On any given weekend you can ask, what Bazaar is going on now? Once you know where you’re headed…with $20 in your pocket you can have a great time. Evenings are filled with tents of vendors and crowds of residents enjoying beautiful but muggy Summer nights and possibly even a visit to the beer tents. Check out the impressive list on the 2014 event calendar from Happenings Magazine!
Our area has also long been known for coal mining. Years of removing the product from underground mining shafts and tunnels has left our area with huge piles of mine waste that can be seen from the roadways. Recently one caught fire..and the news report said it may burn ‘for awhile’. In addition, mining has left homes in these areas in danger of mine subsidence and is well known for the Knox Mine disaster. During this catastrophic event a massive hole in our portion of the Susquehanna river opened up and photos display officials attempting to fill it by tossing in train cars and whatever else could be imagined. Learn more about this disaster from the Luzerne County Historical Society with whom these images are credited.


     You may ask why I have included this disaster in an article about what makes my slice of the world wonderful. When talking about the unique portion of the world I’m located in, I must include the passionate and wonderful individuals who are set on protecting our region from further environmental destruction. This area, once targeted by coal companies whom left tax payers responsible to repair their damage, is now targeted by the ‘Natural’ gas industry for Chemical Fracking. Groups of locals are fighting to protect our air, water, property values and way of life. It is that kind of passion that makes our region extra special. Not only does your neighbor stop by on a winter day to help clear your driveway, but he/she may be out at night ensuring that the water you drink remains clean and the air you breathe free off chemicals. It’s that kind of perseverance and passion in Wilkes-Barre/Scrantonians that makes my slice of the world wonderful.
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