People celebrate return of July 4 parade in Latrobe

A crowd of people lined the streets of Latrobe Monday morning, not only in honor of the Fourth of July but also to celebrate the return of the city’s holiday festivities that were put on hold for two years because of the covid-19 pandemic.

The “Celebrate Latrobe” Fourth of July Parade drew people from across the region, the majority decked out in red, white and blue as they prepared to kickoff their holiday festivities.

“It feels great,” Joyce Petrunyak of Greensburg said of having the parade resume after a two-year hiatus. “It does, it feels good. And it’s nice to see the people back again.”

Petrunyak, 59, attended the parade with her 87-year-old mother, Joanna Shearer, of Latrobe. The family has been attending the parade since they moved to the area in 1976.

The sense of community coupled with the return of family traditions put on hold for the past few years were common reasons why people decided to attend the parade.

Throughout the morning, people reserved front row spaces with lawn chairs while others mingled around eating snow cones or other food sold by local businesses.

Families continued to trickle in even as the parade started, meeting with friends they may not see on a day-t0-day basis.

“We come down and see a lot of people we know as well,” said Shawn Haake, 46, of Derry, who attended the event with his 42-year-old wife, Kelly.

The couple’s daughter was marching in the parade with the Derry Area Marching Band. She also helped build a banana split float alongside members of the high school’s stage crew.

Kelly Haake said she brought her children to the parade while they were growing up, and previously marched in the parade alongside her daughter.

According to Beth Straka, co-director of the Latrobe Fourth of July Celebration, this is the first parade for a new committee that had been elected before the pandemic.

“It was unbelievably packed,” Straka said of the parade. “I couldn’t be happier. We didn’t know what to expect.… It was literally the best and it was awesome.”

She noted that the event was a joint venture between the committee and Latrobe and Unity, where officials made donations to cover costs associated with the festivities.

The parade kicked off at 10:30 am Monday, led by police officers from Latrobe, Ligonier Valley and Derry. They were followed by members of the 28th Infantry Division Band of the Pennsylvania Army National Guard and a truckfull of American Legion members, who were met with applause from the crowd.

Victory Brinker of Latrobe performed at the Grand Marshal stand during the parade, showing off her talents that allowed her to earn a Group Golden Buzzer on “America’s Got Talent.”

The parade was followed by a community gathering that featured craft and food vendors. Fireworks will round out the day.

“It’s great to be back, have a sense of community and see everybody come out for a good cause,” said Kelly Haake. “This is Latrobe, this is what I did when I was a kid… and here we are full circle doing it with our kids. ”

Megan Tomasic is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Megan at 724-850-1203, mtomasic@triblive.com or via Twitter ..

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