Laurel Festival arrives

WELLSBORO – A new Laurel Queen has been crowned: Miss Towanda, Hailey Innocenzo, the daughter of Jeffrey and Darlene Innocenzo.

“It was sad to pass off the crown, but I’m excited to see how the next girl does and watch her grow,” Corrin Binford, 2012 Laurel Queen said.

Innocenzo’s reaction to being crowned the next Laurel Queen?

“She was quite surprised,” said Tara Gordon, queen coordinator. “Miss Towanda is a giggler.”

As part of the selection process, each queen candidate had to answer a question. Innocenzo’s question was, “If you were on a cover of a magazine, what would it be and why?” Innocenzo, who hopes to be a doctor, said she would like to be on the cover of the American Journal of Medicine for curing an infectious disease.

Class vice president and 2012 homecoming queen, Innocenzo also volunteers with the Big Brothers Big Sisters program and is a counselor at Camp Sensation, a program for mentally and physically-disabled children.

Innocenzo’s hobbies include “getting sucked into a book, ‘vegging out’ with my mom and sister while watching movies and suffering through sports practices with my friends.”

First runner-up was Miss Hershey, Mackenzie Twaddell. Twaddell, daughter of David Twadell and Karen Durkin, was student council secretary, member of the National Honors Society and 2012 homecoming queen.

Second runner-up was Miss Central Mountain, Emily Vuocolo, also named Miss Congeniality. Vuocolo, daughter of Patricia and Rocco Vuocolo, served on student council and won the award for “most digs” in volleyball.

“You could tell the candidates were a little nervous, but most of them were pretty excited,” Binford said.

Plenty of festivities led up to the coronation, including the 72nd annual Laurel Festival Parade.

“It’s a big parade for a small town,” Curt Owlett, parade spectator said.

More than 20,000 people packed the streets of downtown Wellsboro Saturday afternoon for the parade. Children scrambled to catch candy as their parents watched from lawn chairs, smiling at the colorful floats as they passed.

“The kids really loved the fire trucks. Their eyes lit up,” Shalane Hamblin, of Tioga, said.

This year’s parade featured plenty of delightful sights. Dancers in dinosaur costumes entertained spectators, while high school marching bands played patriotic tunes. Kids clapped and laughed when the Shriners drove by in their iconic miniature cars.

“There’s something for everyone,” Hamblin said.

Some spectators drove hours to enjoy the festival and parade.

“We’re from the city so we love the small town feel. It’s so welcoming and fun here,” Melissa Jarkowsky, of Huntingdon Valley said.

Other folks came to watch their friends and neighbors march.

“My grandma and grandpa were in it. They had the truck with the waving lion,” Alisha Shaw, of Galeton said.

The festival, administered by the Wellsboro Chamber of Commerce, draws tourists to the area who might not otherwise visit.

“Weve been through Wellsboro many times and this is a good excuse to stop.” Madonna Lavage, of Corning, said.

For many locals, attending the Laurel Festival is a time-honored tradition passed down from generation to generation.

“It’s pretty nostalgic for the older folks. My grandmother used to take me when I was little and after she died we found a whole box of programs she’d saved over the years,” Mary Owlett, of Wellsboro, said.

Like many young spectators, the Owlett children watched the parade from a blanket. A clear, sunny sky made for near-perfect weather conditions.

“We brought lots of sunblock, snacks and water,” Mary said.

Mary’s granddaughter, Olivia, was especially exicited to see the queen candidates.

“My favorite part is when the princesses come past because they look so pretty,” Olivia said.

For others, the best part of the Laurel Festival is the food vendors.

“We like the snow cones!” said Kendra Martin, parade spectator.

From food and family to floats and friends, Gordon said the 72nd annual Laurel Festival was a huge success.

“The festival honors our community,” Mary said. “It’s a celebration where everyone comes together.”