Bouncy houses and bike rides, French fries and fresh squeezed lemonade, dogs on leashes and smiling families walking the streets of downtown Williamsport — that’s how Williamsport Welcomes the World.
Jason Fink, CEO and president of the Williamsport/Lycoming Chamber of Commerce, said that between the 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. Friday, there were approximately 15,000 people roaming the downtown area, whether checking out the vendors on Pine and William Streets, or visiting local shops and restaurants on West Fourth Street.
“Good crowd, perfect weather, great attendance,” he said. “It’s great because it’s bringing people downtown to go into the shops and restaurants.”
Joe and Donna Shank, Williamsport locals, look forward to the festivities every year.
“We haven’t missed one yet,” Joe Shank said.
“For two weeks, everyone gets along,” Donna Shank said. “The food is the best.”
Alongside all of the free activities provided for children, the food was something the locals kept talking about.
Joan Little, a local, loves the different options for dessert and how accessible the event is.
“So far, the funnel cake is the best. But I’m eyeing up that soft ice cream,” she said. “I love this. It’s fun, free and educational with things for all ages. It’s also easily accessible for the disabled which is important to me. It’s wonderful.”
Derek Baldwin, counter worker and customer service employee at Sprinkled Sweet, enjoyed his first Williamsport Welcomes the World.
“This is my first time,” he said. “This is awesome, the vibe and energy is awesome. Everyone is happy.”
The Sprinkled Sweet booth, which has participated in the festival for the last five years, sold handmade cake pops, cupcakes and cookies along with a custom pin for collectors.
Crossroads Church and the First Southern Baptist Church were just two of the many churches offering free games and giveaways for the children attending the event. First Southern Baptist Church has attended Williamsport Welcomes the World for the past eight years and continues to see a need for these events and giveaways.
JP Tobin, a member of the church, said the primary reason the church continues to be a part of the event is because of the community and the opportunity to bring service to it.
“We love our community,” he said.
His church gives out free school supplies in drawstring bags, free Bible literature in different translations and holds a free area for children to ride bikes in a parking lot on West Fourth St.
Pastor Bryan McClelland and Tobin said, last year, they gave out around 600 school bags to children.
“We want to bring service to the community,” Tobin said. “A lot of the families that come are local. We want to be able to spend time getting to know community members.”
“To know our neighbors,” McClelland added.