Since the beginning of the Pittston Tomato Festival, Tom Sewatsky has been keeping the books of the city’s largest event.
In his 32nd year as Tomato Festival treasurer, the CPA has seen 31 different grand marshals lead the annual parade around downtown Pittston. This year, however, Sewatsky will lead the parade himself.
Sewatsky was recently named the grand marshal of the 32nd Pittston Tomato Festival Parade by the festival committee and will lead the parade starting at 10:30 a.m. on Saturday, Aug. 22. The parade is televised on Fox 56 each year.
“I was humbled by it to say the least,” he said.
Sewatsky will ask his nephew to throw out candy during the parade.
A few weeks back, Sewatsky headed to the monthly Tomato Festival meeting thinking the group was going to discuss the grand marshal. In years past, he said, the group would meet and decided on an individual. While at the meeting, Sewatsky said the group turned to him and said, “You’re the grand marshal.”
“What did you do — run out of people?” he said he asked committee members.
“I was a little taken back. In my opinion, the volunteers make the Tomato Festival. They are the people that really make sure everything is well-oiled.”
Sewatsky, 63, knows all about the Tomato Festival and the surrounding area.
A 1970 graduate of St. John’s High School, he graduated from King’s College in accounting prior to working for Albert B. Melone CPAs from 1974-88.
Sewatsky was then named Regional Manager for the Pennsylvania Department of Revenue in Scranton, a position he held from 1988 until he retired earlier this spring.
“I’ve lost 20 pounds since I retired,” Sewatsky laughed. “I’m not sitting at a desk all day eating. It’s enjoyable.”
Back in 1983, Sewatsky was under the tutelage of Albert Melone Sr., calling Melone one of his early mentors. Melone always told Sewatsky civic duty was the most important thing.
When 1983 rolled around, Val D’Elia and Bob Conroy had the idea to create a Pittston festival. Sewatsky was also the treasurer for the Pittston Bicentennial Committee, the group behind the Coal Miner Statue on Kennedy Boulevard and North Main Street.
“It was kind of a no-brainer,” Sewatsky said about being named the treasurer for the Tomato Festival. He’s been handing the cash flow ever since.
Once the Tomato Festival rolls around each year, Sewatsky’s job begins. According to him, most of the event’s profits come from the 5K Race and the committee’s booth at the festival. There is a charge for vendors, but, with tents and other materials being purchased, that cost is usually a wash.
Sewatsky’s role hasn’t changed much since 1983 as he still handles the day-to-day treasurer duties.
“Basically, I’m in charge of depositing all the funds and writing all the checks,” he said. “I make sure the insurance policies are correct and prepare non-profit tax returns.”
Sewatsky also lets the committee know how well each event is doing.
Sewatsky’s favorite part of the festival? Food.
“I like the food,” he said. “I enjoy getting outside and, fortunately, over the years, the weather has been good to us. There is always good music and I always check out the Tomato Fights.”
Tomato Festival Chairperson Lori Nocito noted Sewatsky’s longevity, consistency and his dependability as some of the reasons he was selected as grand marshal.
“He’s been there since day one and has been instrumental in our success by doing the financial reports and paying the bills. He is so dedicated to the committee. We’re all volunteers and that means a great deal,” she said.
Nocito thinks it’s impressive that the Tomato Festival has a CPA who worked for the State Bureau of Audits as a treasurer.
“He’s like a rock,” Nocito said. “He is always available and we wanted to show our appreciation to him.”
Sewatsky is married to the former Mary Catherine Finan, Chief Medical Officer at Moses-Taylor Hospital in Scranton. The couple has two children, Mary Laura, a pediatric nurse practitioner at Columbia University; and Thomas Patrick, who will start medical school this month at The Commonwealth Medical College in Scranton.
The 32nd Annual Pittston Tomato Festival will begin at 5 p.m. on Thursday, Aug. 20 in downton Pittston and run through Sunday, Aug. 23.
Reach Nick Wagner at 570-991-6406 or on Twitter @Dispatch_Nick