Union Effort: Labor Day Celebration Draws Hundreds To Kirby Park
WILKES-BARRE —The sixth Annual Labor Day Festival at Kirby Park drew hundreds of union activists and supporters Monday.
“So we brought some politicians in. We always need labor-friendly politicians. A lot of our unions are here,” said Greater Wilkes-Barre Labor Council President Joe Padavan, a co-chairman of the event’s organizing committee. “It’s been a really been a good day. We had a lot of people, lot of kids, probably 1,000 or so.”
The event had some food, games and entertainment featuring young musicians. Admission was free and proceeds benefit local veteran organizations and programs.
“We normally make a couple thousand. We count our money afterwards. We get a lot of donations. All of our unions donate a couple hundred here and there,” Padavan said. “So we have to spend some money to put it together. We rent the tents and tables and all that stuff.”
Padavan and few other volunteers arrived at the park at 6:30 a.m. to start setting up for event that started at 10 a.m. and ended at 5 p.m.
“It takes a lot of people. We all work together, and again it’s the sixth annual. It’s gotten better each year,” Padavan said. “We don’t want it too big. We want the people to come have fun, stick around. You can stop by on the way to your family’s house. We respect that. We’re thrilled when guys stop by and say hello. It’s the camaraderie. It’s getting people together, and letting everyone here know we’re sticking together as union brothers and sisters.”
Walter Klepaski was volunteering at the event Monday, and he helped organize the event six years ago.
“We had a vision of holding an annual labor day festival to honor the contributions of working men and women,” Klepaski said. “This area has such a rich history of unions and what they have done to improve the quality of life for all workers. We tried to recreate what actually started in the late 1890s in Wilkes-Barre when you had over 2,000 union members and workers, and they would get together on Labor Day and celebrate union victories. It continued until the 1930s.”
Klepaski lives in Jenkins Twp. He retired in 2013 as United Way of the Wyoming Valley community services labor liaison.
“This is meant for the general public to come out to celebrate the value of work,” Klepaski said of the event. “Unions are not only about celebrating unions and what they do. It’s that there’s value in all work regardless of what your work station is in life, that you have something to contribute to the work force.”
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