Biden’s Hometown Preps for Inauguration Party Amid Pandemic

Democrat Joe Biden on a campaign stop in his original hometown of Scranton, Pennsylvania.

Democrat Joe Biden on a campaign stop in his original hometown of Scranton, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

By Patrick Abdalla

January 19, 2021

“This is a historic moment,” said one Scrantonian who is organizing events.

SCRANTON — Samantha Maloney is ready to party. The excitement rings out in her voice as she talks about Wednesday. 

The Scranton woman still can’t get over the fact a man who was born in her town is going to become president at noon. 

“This is a historic moment,” she said. “We need to celebrate this.

If native son Joe Biden had been elected president in any other year, Inauguration Day would be a celebration like no other in Scranton.

But this year, two tragedies—the ongoing novel coronavirus pandemic and the deadly Jan. 6 attack on the US Capitol building—are dampening Scranton’s special day. Residents won’t be piling onto busses for the 4-hour trek to Washington, DC, to see the inauguration of Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris. And there won’t be any major in-person events in the city to commemorate the occasion.

On Friday, Scranton Mayor Paige Cognetti announced City Hall would be closed Tuesday and Wednesday. She said the decision sparked from the deadly attack on the capitol last week.

“I want to be clear that at this time there is no known direct threat to Scranton City Hall or other properties in Scranton,” Cognetti said in a written statement. “This decision is made out of an abundance of caution, following the closure of the Pennsylvania Capitol Complex in Harrisburg on these same days.”

Finding a Way to Commemorate Inauguration Day

Residents like Maloney are making the best of the situation.

She has coordinated the Scranton Inaugural Celebration, which will feature virtual events and highlight local businesses that are making efforts to honor Biden’s inauguration.

“We’re just trying to do things that we would do to celebrate as a community without spreading the disease,” she said.

Some of the events planned in the city include:

  • From Scranton to the White House: Scranton Inaugurates Joe Biden: A panel discussion that will include US Sen. Robert Casey, Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, Mayor Cognetti, and others at 2 p.m. Tuesday.
  • At 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, church bells will ring and prominent city spots will be lit up to honor the victims of the coronavirus pandemic. Residents are asked to put candles in their windows.
  • A Virtual Inaugural Celebration will include special content throughout the day on Wednesday. People can add the hashtag #ScrantonInauguralCelebration.
  • A miniature inauguration podium stands outside the children’s library in downtown Scranton where kids and adults can pose for photos.

The group has also highlighted local businesses that are selling commemorative mugs, T-shirts, and sweatshirts that celebrate Biden’s connection to Scranton.

Posh at the Scranton Club, one of the city’s popular venues, will give away 46 Biden Burgers to the first 46 customers who order in or dine out from 4-8 p.m. Wednesday. The restaurant will also offer Kamala Cocktails for $4.60 Wednesday.

Joe Loves Scranton and Scranton Loves Joe

The 46th President has had a decades-long love affair with the Electric City since his family moved away when he was 10 years old.

He’s regularly namechecked his birthplace so much it became a joke on Saturday Night Live and President Barack Obama called him a “scrappy kid from Scranton.”

He has visited the city regularly, including on Election Day. While his rhetoric portrays a mythic Scranton, his campaign message was often pitched as Scranton values against President Donald Trump’s Park Avenue values. 

Scranton recently renamed a street after Biden and community leaders hope that the city can reap some benefits from having a native son in the Oval Office.

Those benefits could start as early as Wednesday if he brings more attention to the town of 70,000 during his inaugural address. 

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