Source: Nick Wagner, Aimee Dilger, Pete G. WilcoxThe annual Pittston Tomato Festival concluded on Sunday. Throughout the four days, the festival brought thousands to Downtown Pittston. Visit www.psdispatch.com for all the action.
PITTSTON — This year’s Tomato Festival almost began the way last year’s did — with a lot of rain.
Fortunately, the rain cleared in time for opening ceremonies and the rest of the weekend was dry, with the exception of heavy downpours on Sunday.
Nonetheless, the 33rd Annual Pittston Tomato Festival was a huge success thanks to the thousands of people in attendance from all over the area and the many vendors dishing out delicious food.
Here’s a brief recap of the event:
Despite this being the festival’s 33rd year, the committee wasn’t shy about dishing out new things.
The Tomato Festival building made its debut this year and served as a stand to sell merchandise while also storing equipment for the band shell and the parade banners.
Also making its debut was the new Tomato Festival mascot, which will be named through a contest on Facebook.
Run, Forrest, run!
Last year Chris McCabe wasn’t happy with his second-place finish in the Pittston Tomato Festival 5K Run. So this year, at the 18th annual event, he used a different strategy.
McCabe, 26, of Lancaster, broke the tape in 16 minutes and 21 seconds, preventing second-place finisher, Matt Flynn, 30, of Media, from winning his fourth straight Tomato Festival 5K.
Caitlin Gaughan, who won top female honors, didn’t know if she was in good shape or not, because she said she never looks back.
This was her third win in the Tomato Festival 5K, as the 30-year-old from Scranton finished seventh overall in 19:03, outdistancing the second-place female, Kelly Curry, 34, of Pittston, by 1:09.
A parade for all to see
The sky was sunny and the temperature was hot, but thousands gathered along Main Street to witness one of the best parades in the Wyoming Valley.
Close to 80 groups participated in the parade, which was broadcast live on Fox 56 with festival chairperson Lori Nocito alongside TV personality Jane Adonizio.
The grand marshal of the parade was fellow Tomato Festival Committee member and grounds supervisor for the festival, Jim Zarra.
New queen crowned
Four area girls vied for the chance to be named the 2016 Tomato Festival Queen, but the crown could only go on one head.
That head belonged to Destiney Seville of Plymouth who was judged on an interview and her talent performance, in which she tap danced to the song “Some Like It Hot.”
Other participants included Breanna Cannell, 17, of Exeter, who was the first runner-up; Genevieve Federici, 15, of West Pittston; and Gianna Paoloni, 15, of Wyoming.
Seville received a $500 cash scholarship from the Pittston Tomato Festival Committee while Cannell received a $250 scholarship.
Fight! Fight! Fight!
Approximately 150 people gathered in the parking lot of Cooper’s Waterfront in Pittston for the annual throwing of squashed tomatoes.
White shirts were turned red by the event’s conclusion, and some participants buried themselves in tomatoes to soak up all of the juices.
Proceeds for the event benefited Greater Pittston charities.
Some of the strongest men and children from the Valley came together for the 22nd annual arm wrestling competition held in the parking lot of Cooper’s Waterfront.
For adults, Cale Michael, of Turbotville, took first place in the 0 to 165 pound right hand and left hand divisions. Melvin Bonet, of Newton, N.J., took first place in the 166 to 187 novice right and novice left hand divisions. Garnet Pratt, Towanda, won first in the 188 to 220 pound novice right hand division and Jim Fussner, Pittston, won first in the 199 to 242 novice left hand division. Jordan Bair took first place in the 220 pound novice right hand division and 242 pound novice left hand division.
In the 0 to 165 pound open right hand division, Mike Surplus, Pittston, took first place and Mike McPherson, Scranton, took first in the open left hand division. Art Spindler, Pittston, won first place in the 188 to 200 pound open left hand division and Paul Linn took first place in 188 to 220 pound open right hand division and in the 220 pound open right hand division.
For the children’s divisions, Ava Simko, Harding, won first place in the 6 to 7-year-old division while Calen Eckert took first place in the 7 to 9 year-old division. Randy Riechert won first in the 10 to 13 year old division.
A ‘saucy’ contest
Cris Nic’s Irish Pub, of Wilkes-Barre, was named this year’s Sauce Wars champion.
Also in the contest was last year’s winner Grico’s Restaurant of Exeter, Lizza’s Mezzo Mezzo of Pittston, Arturo’s of Dupont, and Sindaco’s of Luzerne.
The contest was a blind taste test and all proceeds go to the Greater Pittston Historical Society.
The good, the bad, the ugliest
There is no Tomato Festival without tomatoes, and residents brought in some of their best home grown ones for judging.
Jim Youelles, Plymouth, took home the prize for the Largest Tomato; Rosie Fasciana, West Pittston, won in the Most Perfect Tomato category; David Todd, West Pittston, went home with the prize for the Ugliest Tomato; and Jim Ganard, Avoca, won in the Smallest Tomato category.
Little Miss, Mister Tomato
The Wyoming Valley’s youngest residents all vied for a chance to be named Little Miss or Little Mister Tomato for 2016.
Little Miss Tomato for 2016 was Victoria Ferentino, 4, of Laflin, and Little Mister Tomato was Parker Jones, 4, of Pittston.
Runner ups for Little Miss Tomato were Mia LeAnn Bartush, 2, of Pittston, and Evie Vasilidas, 2, of Nazareth. Runner ups for Little Mister Tomato were Dylan Malaker, 4, of Avoca, and Max Taylor, 4, of Avoca.
There were 21 girl contestants and nine boy contestants who all answered three questions and blew a kiss to the audience before each receiving a ribbon from the 2015 pageant winners.
Dispatch raises money
The Sunday Dispatch booth saw the return of the spinning wheel, in which participants paid $1 to spin the wheel for a chance to win a prize. Prizes included a pair of sunglasses, a mood cup, a Frisbee, a water bottle, a grocery bag, a key chain, or the Dispatch yellow Chevrolet Camaro toy car.
The booth raised $649 and all proceeds went to the Care and Concern Clinic.
The booth was manned by volunteers from the clinic and Sunday Dispatch staff members.
Reach Jimmy Fisher at 570-704-3972 or on Twitter @SD_JimmyFisher