The wait is over as the Pittston Tomato Festival Committee has named the event’s new mascot — Stew.
According to festival chairperson Lori Nocito, the name came through a contest that was held on the committee’s Facebook page.
“We put it out on Facebook and a lot of people were saying Tom or Roma and things like that,” she said. “All of a sudden someone put Stu, and I liked it immediately and thought, ‘Let’s spell it differently as it relates to the tomato theme.’ We also had a lot of people say Saucy.”
Approximately 106 people replied to the Facebook post with name ideas and it had 32 shares.
Just as important as the mascot’s new identity is the person inside the suit.
West Pittston resident Rosie Fasciana donned the big red tomato costume and braved the heat to bring smiles to attendees during the four-day event.
According to Fasciana, who is also a festival committee member, wearing the outfit was a last-minute decision.
“The person (who was supposed to be the mascot) backed out right before opening ceremonies and I told Lori I’d walk around for an hour,” she said. “Before I knew it, I was the mascot.”
Fasciana spent the four days taking pictures with residents, doling out hugs and being on hand for important events such as the Little Miss and Little Mister Tomato contest.
Fasciana also did her best to stay cool during the hot days.
“I had an ice pack and brought two frozen bottles of water and placed them in the suit,” she said. “I just kept on taking little breaks, getting hydrated in our new headquarters and taking it off for about 30 to 60 minutes and then going out and greeting the people.”
The suit was designed by Carol Flemming Costume Design from Valley Springs, Calif.
Although the mascot was new to most attendees, it was originally incorporated into the Tomato Festival for a few years in the late 1980s.
Toni Reggie, who does clerical work in the Pittston City treasurer’s office, wore the red suit during those days. She said it was discontinued because the suit became worn out and was never replaced.
Reggie was excited to hear a new mascot was being introduced this year.
“I loved it and I was thrilled,” she said. “I was hoping it would come back some year.”
With a new name and a positive response, Fasciana said she would like to don the suit next year and she enjoyed interacting with the crowds.
“What I enjoyed most about being the tomato was greeting all of the kids because I could see them getting excited,” she said. “I had those kids getting excited and taking my picture and I had high school kids coming up and taking selfies with me.”
Nocito knows the mascot will continue to be an intricate part of the festival for years to come.
“It stems from, so to speak, our desire as a committee to always explore new ideas and new opportunities to make the festival bigger, better and much more fun,” she said. “Now that the tomato has a name, it’s been on so many Facebook pages and newspaper articles. It’s been ‘stewpendous.’”
Reach Jimmy Fisher at 570-704-3972 or on Twitter @SD_JimmyFisher