SHAMOKIN - Plans are in motion for the eighth annual Anthracite Heritage Festival of the Arts parade, set for Friday, May 23, in downtown Shamokin.

Fittingly, a parade that delights the hearts of many will welcome this year's grand marshals, Knoebels Amusement Resort's president and co-general managers, brothers Dick and Ron "Buddy" Knoebel, who have been part of a family that has delighted for more than 85 years.

Officials from the Northumberland County Council for the Arts and Humanities (NCCAH) said in an announcement, "Knoebels contributes so much to the area we live in, and has been a real champion in promoting this area through tourism and employing many area people. It is long overdue that we honor them by being our grand marshals," said Jeanne Shaffer, NCCAH executive director.

Since 1988, Dick and Buddy Knoebel have led their family in owning the Elysburg amusement park, nurturing it into a world-class attraction with the additions of one-of-a-kind wooden roller coasters like the Phoenix, Twister and the recently-added Flying Turns. In this year's off season, the fourth generation of the Knoebel family announced they would add a steel coaster, the "Impulse" - which will feature a 98-foot, 90-degree drop - in 2015.

Past grand marshals include WISL disc jockey and talk show host and retired Northumberland County tourism director, Tom Kutza; former Shamokin Mayor Ron "Lum" Bradley and Coal Township Commissioner Albert Santor; television meteorologist Noreen Clark; William Shaw, a helicopter pilot who flew for four presidents; war veterans Jarrod Scandle and Julie Nicolov; entertainers Vic Boris and Irvin Liachowicz, and Frank Schmidt, and William and Dr. Mary Schmidt, grandchildren of Max Schmidt, co-founder of the F&S Brewery, of Shamokin.

"When picking the grand marshal, we have always tried to select people who have working to make this area great, and we could not come up with two more fitting people this year," Shaffer said.

Parade organizer Pamela Brennan Burns extended an invitation to help kick off the 2014 parade season with the Anthracite Heritage Festival Parade, which will start on Water Street, then travel from Water to Rock Street, then from Rock to Independence Street, then turn onto Market Street. The parade, sponsored by First National Bank of PA and the Northumberland County Council of the Arts, will form on Water Street at 5 p.m. and start at 6 p.m., to kickoff the two-day Anthracite Heritage Festival of the Arts.

"We are hoping to pull together the largest parade to date," Burns said in a release. "We want to include several entries representing the community pride that exists in the Coal Region."

The theme of this year's parade is "Salute our Veterans," but Burns says that any aspect of pride in the Coal Region - coal mining, school alumni, sports, history - everyone is welcome. Participants can walk, create a float or ride in vehicles.

"Entries can include floats, antique cars, Jeeps and 4x4s, organizations/associations, bands, fitness groups, musicians, business advertising, costumed walkers and even pets can join in on the fun," Burns said.

Cash prizes will be awarded in the following categories: Most decorative/creative, best dressed/costumes and best of show.

Those interested in participating in the parade can pick up a registration form, or use the one provided in today's edition of The News-Item, and either drop it off to First National Bank, 10 S. Market St., Shamokin, mail it to Anthracite Heritage Festival Parade, attn: Pam Burns, 10 S. Market St., Shamokin 17872, fax it to 570-644-0897 or e-mail it to burnsp@fnb-corp.com.