Scranton Is A Festival Town (by Elizabeth Bohan)
As the co-founder of the Scranton Fringe Festival, I’m pretty dialed in to the many unique, fun, and interesting things happening in my city. Over the past few years, I’ve noticed something amazing – Scranton, Pennsylvania is becoming a full-fledged festival city, playing host to food fests, music conferences, vendor markets, and more, in addition to our arts-based Scranton Fringe Festival. There’s definitely a reason why Michael Scott tried to brag on The Office that “there ain’t no party like a Scranton party cuz a Scranton party don’t stop!”
The myth that there is “nothing to do in Scranton” persists, however, despite the flood of amazing activities that compete for the general public’s attention every weekend. In case the root of the problem is that people simply don’t know where to look to find quality entertainment, I’ve compiled this list of festivals that includes everything from decades-long traditions to new events in their first year. There is something for everyone on this list, and every event is all contributing enormously to the increased cultural landscape in NEPA (that’s Northeastern Pennsylvania, for the uninitiated).
With rumors of a dance festival coming to downtown Scranton in 2018, plus the year round programming that Scranton Fringe Festival and many others offer in addition to these main events, I dare you to find a spot on the calendar in this bustling festival town where there aren’t almost too many things going on to entertain, engage, and interest people in Scranton! In fact, there are so many things going on that I had to cut the list off somewhere – if I missed a festival you love, please add it in the comments!
Scranton Fringe Festival
Inspired by the original Fringe Festival (Edinburgh, Scotland) the Scranton Fringe Festival is a celebration of culture and collaborative works all fueled by the performing arts. The Scranton Fringe Festival is held across multiple days in multiple venues in downtown Scranton. The dates for 2017 are September 27th – October 1st, starting with a free Kick-Off Party on Wednesday at the Scranton Cultural Center where short ‘clips’ of productions will be performed live to tempt the audience into attending different events throughout the weekend. With dozens of shows encompassing original one acts, interactive children’s shows, Shakespearean works, dance, and more, the audience must plan their time wisely to pack as many fun, original, quirky shows into the five days of the Fringe. Scranton Fringe is dedicated to creating an engaging platform for artists and audiences alike.
In addition to the performing arts, a special visual exhibit is curated and displayed at AFA Gallery, a teen playwright workshop in partnership with the Everhart Museum, and free children’s programming at the Lackawanna County Children’s Library.
Late night events include fan favorite Big Gay StorySlam at the Scranton Cultural Center, a dance party at Terra Preta restaurant, a Stand Up Comedy battle at Levels on Linden, and a concert at The Keys Bar.
Dates: September 27th – October 1st
Location: 13 venues throughout the downtown Scranton footprint, including 2017 Scranton Fringe HQ at AFA Gallery (514 Lackawanna Ave.)
More information: scrantonfringe.org and eventbrite.com for tickets
Greek Food Festival
Running like a well-oiled machine, this traditional food festival offers delicious Greek food, and lots of it. Greek salad, chicken, spanakopita, gyros, dolmades, baklava, moussaka…the list goes on. Order in advance for pick up by phone or fax, or wait in line to eat al fresco in the church garden.
Dates: Summer and Fall – June / October 4-6th 2017
Location: Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church
More information: annunciationscranton.org
Blogs are big and local social media mavens Mandy Boyle-Pennington and Karla Porter know it. This year’s fifth anniversary event is free to the public (registration required)! BlogCon will showcase 20-minute sessions as well as roundtable discussions, more networking time, and BlogCon Expo booths featuring vendors, sponsors, and partners. Expect a full-day of conversation and new ideas with an incredible group of people, lunch provided for all attendees, and swag to show off after the event.
In addition to running BlogCon, this group produces Squirrel Girls Tech Camp during the summer, teaching 75 students from grades 4 -6 hands on lessons in all things STEM and helping combat the major gender disparities in STEM careers.
Dates: Saturday, October 14th 2017
Location: Penn State Worthington Scranton campus
More information: nepablogcon.com
Bonfire at the Iron Furnaces
No big list of Scranton events would be complete without including this one night event. Bonfire at the Iron Furnaces that packs the historic Iron Furnaces, a truly unique site with the remains of a standing blast furnace. The Bonfire Festival, a fundraiser for the Anthracite Heritage Museum, explores the roots of Halloween in Celtic culture and celebrates other cultural autumn festivals while highlighting Northeastern PA’s industrial past.
The event celebrates the history of Scranton’s foundations with storytellers, music, fire twirlers, face painting, fire hooping, tarot card readings, a balloon artist, a hands-on activity by the Everhart Museum, live theatre, and of course, the lighting of an enormous bonfire!
Dates: October 21st2017
Location: Scranton Iron Furnaces Historic Site
More information: scrantonbonfire.com
NEPA Film Festival
Going into its second year, the NEPAFF will showcase the original film: “At the Drive-In” on opening night at the Waverly Community Center. The NEPA Film Festival showcases emerging and independent filmmakers, allowing a variety of unique, originally written, produced and directed by independent and emerging makers from around the world as well as Northeast Pennsylvania.
Dates: October 20th– 22nd 2017
Location: Waverly Community Center
More information: waverlycomm.org
ScrantonMade’s Holiday Market
& Arts on the Square
More than just seasonal vendor markets, ScrantonMade’s two signature events have both become staples in the local community calendar. The Holiday Market started small, contained in a few tents on the courthouse square, and has expanded to fill an entire department store floor. Arts on the Square fills Courthouse Square with over 100 artists selling everything from furniture and paintings to needlepoint and local honey.
Dates: First weekend in December / Last weekend in July
Location: Former Globe Store / Courthouse Square in Scranton
More information: scrantonmade.com
Scranton St. Patrick’s Day Parade
Not a festival in the strictest sense of the word, the St. Patrick’s Day Parade in Scranton is one of (if not THE) largest event in the city, flooding the town with revelers from seven a.m. until well after dark. With approx. 12,000 participants and over 150,000 attendees, the Scranton St. Patrick’s Day Parade is a once-a-year experience in the Electric City. Known to locals simply as “Parade Day,” this enthusiastic celebration of all things Irish starts early, with friends and family gathering for hearty breakfasts to fuel the boozy celebrations to follow. The actual parade kicks off at 11am and features Irish step dancers, marching bands, and often national celebrities. Parade Day is a marathon, not a sprint, involving a circuit of local bars and restaurants that all offer drink specials, talented bagpipers, and teams of Irish dancers showing off their skills. Pace yourself and enjoy the crowds
Dates: March, the Saturday before St. Patrick’s Day
Location: Downtown Scranton
More information: stpatparade.com
Electric City Tattoo Convention
Also known as the Scranton Tat Con, this event provides the opportunity to book tattoo appointments with more than 160 amazing tattoo artists from all over the country that gather to offer tattooing at the Hilton Hotel and Conference Center every year. If planning ahead isn’t your style, most tattoo artists offer walk-in appointments throughout the weekend as time allows.
Even if you’re not interested in getting new ink, other events during the convention include burlesque shows, a pin up contest, sword swallowing, circus act side shows, and tattoo contests with prizes (and bragging rights) for the best tattoos.
Dates: Third weekend in April
Location: Hilton Hotel and Conference Center
More information: electriccitytattoo.com
Throop Arts and Food Festival
Outside the city limits of Scranton are a wealth of other fun community events, and Throop Fest stands out with a kick-off from the local high school band, free art classes for kids, food trucks, a climbing wall, and activities provided by the local fire and police departments.
The outdoor stage for live music, multiple local food options, and festive face painting booth give this spring event a distinct summery appeal and paves the way for the many popular local church picnics that remain popular in the area. The Civic Center is packed with vendors of handmade goods, from painters, photographers, and fiber artists to bakeries, woodworkers and 3D printed lamp makers. The focus of this one day event is on supporting local, highlighting small businesses, and donating raffle proceeds to the local community.
Dates: Third weekend in April
Location: Throop Civic Center
More information: throopfestival.com or shantytowndesign.com
Lackawanna River Conservation Association’s Riverfest
Outdoor enthusiasts and sporty types, this fest’s for you! A day of exercise and fun, RiverFest draws the community outdoors after the long winter to celebrate the local area and the Lackawanna River that runs through it. Paddlers take to the water and revelers fill the banks of the river for a day filled with the enjoyment of nature, river activities, food, crafts, educational and environmental displays.
There is a timed race Canoe-A-Thon and a free, fun competition Regatta open to anyone who can make their own floating vessel (the more creative, the better!). The LCRA Duck-A-Thon sees a flock of ducks launch upstream of Sweeney’s Beach into the waters of the Lackawanna for an exciting race to the finish and a prize for the winner.
Dates: Mid May
Location: Sweeney’s Beach Recreation Area
More information: lrca.org
Zinefest recently expanded from one day into two due to the popularity of its’ quirky vendors. Begun as a place to sell and swap zines (handmade paper magazines dedicated to a variety of distinctive topics), vendors now include photographers, musicians, crafters, and small non-profits like Scranton Fringe, all looking to connect with each other in a genuine, off-line, pre-Internet kind of way. It’s not unusual to pick up hand drawn artwork, a cassette tape from local contemporary musicians, a handcrafted, one of a kind button, and a Polaroid photo of a local landmark.
Dates: First Friday in June
Location: AFA Gallery
More information: scrantonzinefest.weebly.com
Scranton Shakespeare Festival
A free theater festival, the Scranton Shakespeare Fest’s season spans a month and includes classics of the bard as well as newer work. In 2017, they presented Two Gentlemen of Verona, Measure for Measure, Damn Yankees, Cheeks, and Skin of the Teeth. Combining a love of the classics with a love of new and independent theatre, Scranton Shakes presents free public theater in such locations as public parks, local schools, and a professional baseball stadium – bringing more professional theatre to the greater Scranton region by exposing new talent as well as local spaces.
Dates: End of June – end of July
Location: Various venues in Scranton and surrounding areas
More information: scrantonshakes.com
St. Joseph’s Festival
Church picnics are huge in Northeastern Pennsylvania, bringing the local community together for food, games, and family traditions even as local parishes close or consolidate. St. Joe’s, while technically a social service agency and not a church, is arguably the biggest event of the church picnic “season,” located on a college campus and raising funds for charity with a telethon on local television channel WNEP.
Festival goers are treated to traditional foods like potato pancakes, funnel cakes, and hand squeezed lemonade while they browse the stellar White Elephant sale, Book Tent, and wide array of raffle baskets.
Dates: Last weekend in July
Location: Marywood University
More information: stjosephscenter.org
Scranton Jazz Festival
The 13th Annual Scranton Jazz Festival featured Grammy Award winning bass legend Stanley Clarke, and the rest of the lineup on both the Main Stage and the late night Jazz Walk venues was equally as top notch. Usually scheduled to coincide with Scranton’s thriving First Friday artwalk, the Jazz Festival fills the city with jazz, blues, and other American music from local and nationally known performers.
Dates: First weekend in August
Location: Various venues in downtown Scranton
More information: scrantonjazzfestival.org
Peach Music Festival
Since the festival’s groovy beginning in 2012, bands and musicians like American Babies, Santana, and Joe Bonamassa have attracted thousands of people to Montage Mountain. Peach-goers have the option to camp on the grounds, shop through food and craft vendors, and all are given free access to the Montage Mountain water park with the purchase of their Peach Festival pass.
Dates: Mid August
Location: Montage Mountain
More information: thepeachmusicalfestival.com
The NEPA Yoga Festival is the largest yoga event in all of Northeastern Pennsylvania. Held at Montage Mountain, the festival has indoor and outdoor yoga classes for every skill level, a variety of uplifting guest speakers scheduled throughout the day, and interesting local vendors to browse during breaks. As a special bonus, the Montage Mountain waterpark is available to all guests with the purchase of their Yoga Festival ticket. Plus there is a summer AND a fall Yoga Festival!
Dates: Summer (June 10th) and fall (Sept 9th)
Location: Montage Mountain
More information: nepayogafestival.com
Pride on the Mountain
Smartly scheduled in late August to both take advantage of the warmer weather and leave the LGBTQ community free to attend the many other events scheduled during Pride month, the NEPA Rainbow Alliance’s Pridefest is a chance to celebrate diversity, party with friends and family, and swim at the water park on Montage Mountain.
Dates: Third Saturday in August
Location: Montage Mountain
More information: gaynepa.com
La Festa Italiana
A linchpin in the local food scene, La Festa takes over Scranton’s Courthouse Square every Labor Day Weekend and leaves thousands of happily overstuffed patrons dreaming of the perfect bruschetta toast and porketta sandwiches. La Festa surrounds the square with food tents
Dates: Labor Day weekend
Location: Courthouse Square, Scranton
More information: LaFestaItaliana.org
Scranton is lucky to have a national park located just at the edge of the downtown footprint. Steamtown National Historic Site hosts its annual Railfest with a wide variety of activities throughout the weekend celebrating railroads and railroading in all of its forms. A free concert kicks off the festivities in Steamtown’s beautiful on-site theater. Multiple excursions depart the national park throughout the festival, but for those who prefer to explore on foot, displays of locomotives and cars are in place to view.
The Locomotive Shop displays different types of machinery, with machinists on hand to explain the function of the devices, and how they work to preserve our railroad artifacts. Model railroading, including live steam modeling, and amusement park sized trains are part of the fun for train enthusiasts of all ages. Railroad art and photos from the vast archive of DL&W photographs are on display, and an exclusive night photo session at the park is offered to professional photographers as a separate event.
Dates: Labor Day weekend
Location: Steamtown National Historic Site
More information: nps.gov/stea
Electric City Music Conference &
The Steamtown Music Awards
Kicking off a weekend jam packed with events, the Steamtown Music Award Ceremony is the music event of the season for Scranton musicians. Featuring a red carpet and a Lifetime Achievement Award, the SMAs go all out to show how much independent musicians mean in Scranton. Local celebrity presenters hand out awards voted on by the community and artists perform for each other before spreading out into their ECMC venues over the weekend.
The subsequent Electric City Music Conference includes 100 performances of live, local music, packed into ten venues throughout the weekend. Special free conference panels and mentoring sessions are also offered to the artists, with booking agents, managers, and other industry professionals available to answer questions and give advice outside of a concert setting.
Dates: Third weekend in September
Location: Various venues in Scranton and surrounding area / The V Spot Bar
More information: electriccitymusicconference.com
With a lineup of 100% vegan food and drink vendors, Vegfest aims to connect Northeast Pennsylvanians to the places that not only cater to vegans and vegetarians, but do it well. Vaguest is an all day, all ages event based on promoting compassion, health and wellness in the local community. This event included craft vendors, plant based food, speakers, plant based cooking demos, music, yoga and children’s activities, all based on promoting wellness
Dates: Inaugural event September 16, 2017
Location: Schautz Memorial Stadium, Scranton
More information: NEPAvegfest.org