First Posted: 8/16/2013
If you aren’t already in a food coma, today is your last chance.
Until next year.
The 30th annual Pittston Tomato Festival concludes tonight. Tomato pie, pizza, rigatoni, sopressata, Italian roast pork, potato pancakes, brushetta, kielbasa dogs, gyros, and a hundred other items are on the menu.
Did we mention the Hot Sloppy Tony? (essentially, a hot sausage wimpie).
Allison Falcone of Moosic said she came for the food. The festival was only open for a half-hour Thursday but already she had a slice of pizza, a sopressata sandwich and a Dutch funnel cake.
“It’s really all about the food,” she said. “The rides are nice, and the bands are good, but really, the food is why we’re all really here.”
In addition to the food, the annual festival featured live entertainment, a gala parade, a 5K run, games, rides, beer and, of course, home-grown Pittston tomatoes.
A 20-foot steel and wire sculpture that stretches across South Main Street was unveiled Thursday night at the opening of the festival.
Bushed steel tomato crates are piled on top of each other and a wire mesh man is depicted holding the stack upright. On top of the crates are two wire mesh men holding a tomato festival banner. The banner is held on the other side by three wire men hanging down off the Open Space building.
The sculpture, “A Bad Idea,” was a good idea by former Mayor Mike Lombardo’s but his vision was brought to life by metal workers Ray Preby and Sean Brady.
Former Pittston Mayor Michael Lombardo told the story of the late George Killian, a memorable downtown character. Killian apparently strung a massive banner across Main Street, pole to pole, urging people to vote for Lombardo for mayor on Election Day 1997.
Such banners are illegal across a state roadway.
Lombardo said he could never figure out how Killian got the banner up that high, but speculated he may have used boxes, such as the ones depicted in the sculpture.
Preby, of Pittston and owner of Apple Street Welding and Manufacturing in Larksville, said in Pittston fashion, he combined function and form.
“It wasn’t enough just to put a hole in the ground to support the banner,” Preby said. “Why not turn that plain pole into something artistic. Something that will turn peoples’ heads as well as represent the heritage of Pittston?”
At a ceremony on the city’s new bandshell, public officials called the festival to order and Monsignor John Bendik of St. John the Evangelist Church gave a blessing. The National Anthem was sung by 11-year-old Gianna Charney.
Officials in attendance included U.S. Rep. Matt Cartwright, state Sen. John Yudichak and state Rep. Mike Carroll.
“Speaking on behalf a Greater Pittston, we’re thrilled at the 30th anniversary of the Tomato Festival,” Carroll said. “From humble beginnings down on Kennedy Boulevard to this wonderful spectacle, it’s a great weekend for Greater Pittston.”
Yudichak said the festival gets bigger and better each year. “Just like the City of Pittston,” he said.
Cartwright read a proclamation that was also entered into the Congressional Record.
“The city of Pittston has once again staged this remarkable and unique civic event celebrating both the exceptional tomatoes grown throughout Northeastern Pennsylvania, and the warmth and hospitality of the City of Pittston.”
A massive 30th birthday cake shaped like a tomato was presented by local caterers Biagio, Emma Jean and Blaise Alan Dente.
This morning, from 10:45 a.m. to noon is the Little Miss and Little Mister Tomato Contest. On the entertainment schedule is Stanky and the Coalminers from 1 to 2 p.m.; The Sperazza Band from 2:45 to 3:45 p.m.; Dave Joyce from 4:15 to 4:45 p.m.; the Poets from 5:45 to 7:30 p.m.; and Somethin’ Else’s Woodstock show from 8:30 to 9:30 p.m.