Thousands Battle Sun at Novena

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SCRANTON -- Whether they were sitting in the air conditioning or in the shade, people came to St.  Ann's Novena in West Scranton to strengthen their faith despite the heat.

"I think it's a matter of mind over matter. I think if you let it get to you. It will get to you. But again, I think coming to St. Ann's, that's the last thing we worry about," said Jerry Dempsey, of Jessup.

Far more people attended mass in the air conditioning inside St. Ann's Basilica. But those who stayed outside relied on water, shade, and a breeze to get through the day.

"There always seems to be a nice breeze when we're here for the services as you can see now, and we always have our spot here and it's cool underneath the trees," said Kim Bird of Scranton.

Those working in the hot snack bar were also taking precautions.

"For the workers in here, we'll take towels and wet them and put them around our necks or under our hats and just battle through," said Nancy Tora, who was a worker at the novena.

This year for the first time there was also a picnic tent set up by the snack bar.

“It’s 20 or 30 degrees hotter in here,” said Frank Tielle. “We have ovens going, we have grills going, pizza fritta, frying dough ovens going.”

 A crew from Lackawanna Ambulance was on hand in case of any heat or medical emergency.

Event organizers say volunteers and medical crews were keeping a watchful eye.

“We had a lot of water being used, obviously, out of our food stand, and our ushers and our volunteers made sure they were well thirst-free for the entire novena because you can get dehydrated very quickly here. As some of our medical staff said, you want to be careful coming out because of that,” said Novena coordinator Brian Hillock.

Even a visiting priest acknowledged the sacrifice the crowds were making.

“Because you are here and you deserve praise. I want everybody here to turn to your neighbor and say, pat me on the back, I deserve it.”

But people here said the heat just wasn't as bad as they thought it would be.

"Do you feel that breeze? Doesn't get any better than that," said a woman in the crowd.

It reached 97 degrees in Scranton, the hottest day of the summer.