The ripe time of the summer


First Posted: 8/6/2013

It’s tomato time.

More than 50,000 people are expected in downtown Pittston this week as the 30th Annual Pittston Tomato Festival descends on the city. During the four days of tomato-centered fun in the unofficial Tomato Capital of the World, there are so many ways to have a good time.

The festival runs from Thursday, Aug. 15 to Sunday, Aug. 18. The 4-day event is considered to be the best, tastiest festival in Northeast Pennsylvania.

Festival co-chairman Michael Lombardo called the festival a “perfect mouse trap” to show off how the city’s downtown has progressed in the past year.

“The Tomato Festival isn’t just measured by the people that are contained in the festival lots,” Lombardo said. “People spill out to the downtown and eat at our restaurants and shop at our stores.”

The festival features a plethora of homemade American and ethnic food, live entertainment, a gala parade, a 5K run, games, rides, beer and, of course, home-grown Pittston tomatoes.

The festival’s opening ceremony will be held at 6 p.m. at 6 p.m. at the city’s new bandstand followed by live entertainment by Windfall, Phyllis Hopkins and The Idol Kings: A Tribute to John Cougar and Journey.

The festival continues on Friday with performances by Danny Argo and Friends, The Jeanne Zano Band and Sweet Pepper and the Long Hots.

Saturday’s features are the Tomato Festival Queen Scholarship Pageant, Groove Train, The Pacci Band, Jordan Tarter, Fake Uncle Jack, K8 and Flaxy Morgan. The Tomato Contest will feature the largest, smallest, ugliest and most perfect tomato.

On Sunday, the Little Miss & Little Mr. Tomato Contest, Stanky and The Coalminers, The Sperazza Band, Dave Joyce, The Poets and Somethin’ Else will provide entertainment.

New this year, adjoining the Tomato Festival Lot is the Tomato Bar & Bistro, which has a lower patio and a new upper-deck patio is expected to open in time for the Tomato Festival.

Lombardo said that or any other downtown eatery is a good place to go get out of the summer heat.

New also, work is expected to be completed on a new downtown mural entitled “Ultimato,” which depicts colorful splattered tomatoes. The mural is being painted by Dwight Kirkland, the artist responsible for the Heritage Mural painted last year. The Ultimato mural will be on the side of the upper level of the Tropical Dreams building.

Returning are the nationally-recognized Tomato Fights will be held at 1:30 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 17 in the parking lot of Cooper’s on the Waterfront Restaurant on Kennedy Boulevard.

The event is sponsored by Price Chopper and was named by Outside magazine to its “2013 Adventure Bucket List.” “Win a Food Fight” at the Tomato Festival was Pennsylvania’s entry. A bucket list is a list of things people hope to do before they die.

Kate Siber, the Outside magazine correspondent who prepared the list, was looking for an off-the-beaten-path adventure in each state.

“I have a few friends in that area and they said that was completely unique,” Siber said of the Tomato Fights. “Pennsylvania has so many different outdoor events to choose from, but I thought this was was really different.”

The writeup included: “For those who never experienced a cafeteria-wide food fight in high school, there is the Pittston Tomato Festival in Pittston, Pennsylvania. Over 50,000 people come to the four-day festival, which includes a parade, tomato-growing contest, a marinara sauce cook-off, a lot of good food and a 5K run, but only 150 get to participate in the tomato fight. $5 gets you unlimited boxes of rotten tomatoes, a pair of protective goggles and free rein to pummel the other team. Remember: Ducking is just as important as throwing.”

Registration for the 15thAannual Pittston Tomato Festival 5K Run, sponsored by Geisinger, is set for 9:30 a.m. at the Greater Pittston YMCA.

The parade will begin at 10:30 a.m. on Saturday and will be televised live on Fox 56. The parade will start at the A-Plus Mini Mart and continue through Main Street and down Kennedy Boulevard, ending at the Cooper’s Co-op building.

Pittston welder Ray Preby is grand marshal.

One popular feature, the Sauce Wars competition, will not be held this year because of a scheduling conflict. Last year, Sam Marranca, owner of Cafe Italia on River Road, won best marinara sauce. “It’s an old family recipe,” Marranca said.

The Little Miss and Little Mister Tomato Festival 2013 Pageant is set for 10:30 a.m. on Sunday, Aug. 18. Vanessa Maslowski, of Duryea, was crowned Little Miss Pittston Tomato Festival 2012 and Mikey Colaruso, of Exeter, was crowned Little Mister Pittston Tomato Festival 2012.

Miss Tomato Festival Queen Pageant is set for 1 p.m. Saturday. Marina Maida, of Pittston Area, was crowned Tomato Festival Queen 2012. The contest is open to unmarried girls between the ages of 14 to 19 who vie for prizes, gifts and a $500 cash college scholarship. The runner-up is awarded $250.

The Sunday Dispatch’s prize wheel, a popular attraction at the festival, will feature a shiny black, die-cast limited edition Ford F-150 pickup featuring the Sunday Dispatch logo. For a $1 donation, or a Dispatch Dollar which can be clipped from today’s edition of the Dispatch, patrons get to spin a prize wheel.

Prizes include Sunday Dispatch neon hipster sunglasses, limited edition T-shirts, color-changing stadium cups, a tape measure, lottery tickets, tote bags or coupon for a free classified ad in The Times Leader and Sunday Dispatch.

All money raised at the Dispatch stand will be donated to the Care and Concern Ministries and it’s food pantry.

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