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16th annual Grand Slam Parade brings excitement

As the first Grand Slam Parade since 2019, the excitement to kick off a much-missed international Little League World Series was seen and heard in the large crowds in downtown Williamsport.

The 16th Grand Slam Parade hosted 20 teams representing much of the world for the 75th Series. Many were simply glad to be able to celebrate on the scale they were used to.

Area resident Adam Zitta brought his baby, Everett, to see his first Grand Slam Parade.

“We’re waiting to see his mom, Lynn, who is a dance instructor at the Katie Benson School of Dance,” Zitta said. “He’s enjoying the music, and we’re just happy to be here.”

Maren Rhodes, of Nolensville, Tennessee, was here with her family supporting her son, Jack Rhodes, in last year’s Series. They are back again this year, and the atmosphere is already more exciting this time around, she said.

“We were here last year and people were telling us that it wasn’t a true representation of the Series in Williamsport due to COVID,” Rhodes said. “We are all very excited to experience Williamsport on a bigger scale.”

Leanna Dever, mother of Southeastern player Lane Dever, is excited to support her son in the most competitive event of his life so far.

“We are all just very excited to see them experience a whole new different level of competition,” Dever said. “We’re also really excited for the MLB classic.”

For Great Lakes player Clark Thornburg, playing in the Series has been a lifelong dream.

“Since he could walk, talk and carry a bat, it’s been his dream,” said Clark’s dad, Dustin Thornburg. “It’s a dream come true for all of us.”

For many of the families, the parade is the first time they’ve seen their young players in days and, sometimes, weeks.

“He’s having a blast up there,” Dustin Thornburg said. “We talk on the phone, but I’m usually the one that has to call him. His brother had to download Snapchat just to talk to him.”

Graham and Erin Honsa and Scott and Mandy Byrne flew from Australia a few days ago. Waiting at the Genetti Hotel for the parade to begin, they said they were most excited to see their sons for the first time in a while.

“We just got here,” Scott Byrne said. “We’re really excited to see our kids.”

Most of the Australian team are experiencing America for the first time and said they felt welcomed immediately.

“We’re definitely enjoying our time here so far,” Graham Honsa said. “And it’s really only just beginning.”

Nine-year-old Reid Meichenbaum was the eager spokesperson for his family from Vancouver, Canada. He is here supporting his older brother, Ben Meichenbaum.

“I’m excited to be here,” Reid said. “I’m ready to have fun and meet new people.”

Grand Marshal of the parade was former New York Yankees and Hall of Fame pitcher Mariano Rivera.

The first games of the 75th Little League World Series begin Wednesday with four games and continue daily until Sunday, Aug. 28, when the champion will be decided.

The MLB Little League Classic will feature the Boston Red Sox against the Baltimore Orioles at 7 p.m. on Sunday at Bowman Field.

Bands pass by the front of the Genetti at the start of the Little League World Series parade in downtown Williamsport Monday evening. DAVE KENNEDY/Sun-Gazette

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