My Corner, Your Corner: Tomato Festival started as a dream

My Corner, Your Corner - Tony Callaio

The other day I got Chinese food and, when I opened my fortune cookie, it said, “Start believing in dreams and others will catch the fever.” I can’t help but think of Val D’Elia and others who created the now nationally-known Pittston Tomato Festival.

Who knew that 32 years later we would not only have a grand festival, but our area would be known as the “Tomato Capital of the World?” The event has been featured in publications around the country, including a 2009 article in the Washington Post.

For more than a decade, Lori Nocito has chaired the festival with the help of former mayor Michael Lombardo, Jim Zarra, Susan Lombardo, Jim and Judy Deice, Mary Ciarelli, Clairellen Hopple, Jay Duffy, Judy Strelish, Angel Noone, Jamie Andrews, this year’s parade grand marshal Tom Sewatsky and many, many more volunteers.

The parade will once again be broadcast by FOX56 TV. Pittston native and TV host Jane Adonizio teams up with Nocito, broadcasting the parade live on Saturday, Aug. 22. Make note that streets will be blocked off as early as 9:30 a.m. that day so the 5K race/walk can take place safely prior to the beginning of the parade.

There will be the usual events to look forward to, such as race and the parade, and also the Tomato Fights, Tomato Pageants, Sauce Wars, Ugly Tomato Contest, food, music, more food and more music.

The Inspiration Mural adjacent to the festival lot on the side of the Newrose Building is expected to be completed by the festival’s start.

Downtown was bustling this past week with new road paving, the sidewalk has been completed on Kennedy Boulevard and a few new crosswalks have been installed. Even the Columbus statue got a bath, thanks to Atty. Mark Bufalino, who graciously paid for the cleaning on behalf of his late father, Atty. Charles Bufalino. Charles served as president of the organization that had the statue commissioned and placed on its current site at the exit of Kennedy Boulevard.

Store owners have been gearing up for the festival as well, cleaning storefronts, preparing stores and restaurants for the four-day fest.

The Tomato Festival signifies not only the biggest party Pittston can throw, but also the grand ending of summer. School will start shortly and, for many colleges, school days are already here.

It seemed like summer took its time in arriving, but from the Fourth of July until now, made a nice comeback. Summer isn’t summer without some 90-degree days and we had a few this year. I’ll take each and every one of them. Never being a winter person, I’ll scratch and claw to hang on to summer as long as possible.

This summer has been crazy with rain, yet lawns have dried out. There’s been sadness losing close friends and, now that the days are getting shorter, it’s time to celebrate life and the grand old tomato.

I’m not sure what Val D’Elia was thinking about, but he took a dream, sold it to city officials and 32 years later, we have a party – and what a party it is.

The party won’t stop with the Tomato Festival. Let’s not forget the Second Annual Paint Pittston Pink, the brainchild of cancer survivor Barbara Sciandra which starts a month after the Tomato Festival. Paint Pittston Pink will begin on Sunday, Sept. 27 and run through Oct. 7.

Get out and celebrate life, Pittston and our world famous tomato!

Quote of the week

“The quality of a person’s life is in direction proportion to their commitment to excellence, regardless of their chosen field of endeavor.” – Vince Lombardi, NFL coach.

Thought of the week

“Start believing in dreams and others will catch the fever.” – Author unknown. Dedicated to Val D’Elia and all those who followed his dream with the Tomato Festival.

Bumper sticker

“Faith is not a belief. Belief is passive. Faith is active.” – Edith Hamilton, American educator and author.

My Corner, Your Corner

Tony Callaio

If you have a birthday, anniversary or special event you’d like publicized, email Tony Callaio at

If you have a birthday, anniversary or special event you’d like publicized, email Tony Callaio at

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