Thousands flock to Pittston Tomato Fesitval’s opening night Thursday



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    PITTSTON — As soon as the rain stopped, the party got started.

    For the second straight year, the Tomato Festival Committee worked tirelessly to get the grounds ready following a rain storm. By the time opening ceremonies rolled around, no one even noticed the pounding rain that rolled through Greater Pittston just an hour earlier.

    The 33rd annual Pittston Tomato Festival kicked off on Thursday on the Tomato Festival grounds in Downtown Pittston. The festival, which draws around 50,000 people to the downtown each year, continues through Sunday evening with events throughout the weekend.

    “Compared to 10 years ago this is amazing,” Pittston City Mayor Jason Klush said. “Bringing people in is the biggest thing we look for. Now we have that and people are coming in from outside of Greater Pittston. It’s been beautiful.”

    At opening ceremonies, the Tomato Festival Committee introduced its new mascot, which has yet to be named. Last year’s Tomato Festival Queen Hanna Kasko sang the National Anthem, while Rev. Samuel Washington gave the invocation. Former Mayor Mike Lombardo, Tomato Festival Parade Grand Marshal Jim Zarra, a longtime committee member, and Klush each welcomed the crowd to the annual festival.

    Monsignor John Bendik closed the opening ceremonies by leading the crowd in a moving rendition of God Bless America.

    During the event, festival-goers can find everything from specialty food from the Greater Pittston area to bounce houses for the kids. There is even a farmers market.

    Klush made sure to mention the hard work all committee members put in all year.

    “This is amazing,” he said. “People think that it just falls together. It’s a yearlong event that they plan, and it’s a great weekend.”

    Zarra had a message to the crowd at opening ceremonies.

    “I would like everyone to do a few things,” he said. “Eat and be merry. Have fun enjoy yourself and enjoy our city.”

    On Friday, the Phyllis Hopkins Trio will take the stage at 5:30 p.m. and give way to Fab 3 at 7 p.m. Sweet Pepper and the Long Hots play from 9 to 11 p.m.

    The festival really gets underway on Saturday.

    The annual Miles for Michael 5K Race/Fun Walk begins at 10 a.m. with the annual parade starting at 10:30 p.m. The Tomato Festival Queen Pageant will be held at 1 p.m. At 1:30 p.m., the popular Tomato Fights will be held at Cooper’s Waterfront Restaurant on Kennedy Boulevard. Throughout the evening, entertainment will be provided by Danny Argo and Friends, Jump the Train, 3 Imaginary Boys, Banana Hammocks, Eddie Appnel and Flaxy Morgan.

    The Tomato Contest is held at 7 p.m. on Saturday.

    The Little Miss and Little Mr. Tomato Contest will begin at 10:45 a.m. on Sunday. Entertainment will be provided at the bandshell until 9 p.m. on Sunday.

    “We love to see everyone come to the city,” Klush said. “This is a great event for us.”

    Talon Shaup, 2, and mom Vanessa, Drums, spin the wheel at the Sunday Dispatch booth at the 33rd annual Pittston Tomato Festival Thursday.
    http://psdispatch.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/web1_TomatoFest1.jpgTalon Shaup, 2, and mom Vanessa, Drums, spin the wheel at the Sunday Dispatch booth at the 33rd annual Pittston Tomato Festival Thursday. Nick Wagner | Times Leader

    Mary Ann Reggie and granddaughter Giada, Hazleton, pose with the new Tomato Festival mascot at the 33rd annual Pittston Tomato Festival Thursday.
    http://psdispatch.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/web1_TOmatoFest2.jpgMary Ann Reggie and granddaughter Giada, Hazleton, pose with the new Tomato Festival mascot at the 33rd annual Pittston Tomato Festival Thursday. Nick Wagner | Times Leader

    By Nick Wagner

    nwagner@timesleader.com

     

    Reach Nick Wagner at 570-602-0178 or on Twitter @Dispatch_Nick

     

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    Video Caption: The 33rd annual Pittston Tomato Festival kicked off on Thursday, Aug. 18 in Downtown Pittston.
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