The Pittston Tomato Festival has stood the test of time for 32 years. From its original location on Kennedy Boulevard to its current spot in the Upper Tomato Festival Lot, the event draws tens of thousands of spectators, food testers and tomato fighters downtown.
With the addition of a special Tomato Festival Committee building to this year’s event, it doesn’t seem like the festival is going to slow down any time soon.
More than 50,000 people are expected in Pittston this week as the 33rd Annual Pittston Tomato Festival gets underway on Thursday. During the four days of tomato fun, the Quality Tomato Capital of the World offers something for everyone.
The festival runs from Thursday, Aug. 18 to Sunday, Aug. 21 and is considered one of the best and tastiest festivals in Northeast Pennsylvania.
The festival features a plethora of homemade American and ethnic food, live entertainment, a gala parade, a 5K run and fun walk, games, rides, beer and, of course, home-grown Pittston tomatoes.
The festival officially opens at 5 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 18 with an opening ceremony set for 6 p.m. at the city’s bandstand, followed by live entertainment by Windfall, AM Radio and Fake Uncle Jack.
The festival continues Friday with performances by the Phyllis Hopkins Electric Trio, Fab 3 and Sweet Pepper and the Long Hots.
Things really get going on Saturday.
The 5K Race and Fun Walk will begin at 10 a.m. through the streets of downtown. Registration for the 18th annual Miles for Michael/Pittston Tomato Festival 5K Run is set for 8:30 a.m. at the Greater Pittston YMCA. The awards ceremony for the race will be at 11:30 a.m.
Following the race, at approximately 10:30 a.m., the parade will begin on South Main Street and swing around to Kennedy Boulevard. The parade will be televised live on Fox 56. The parade will start at the A-Plus Mini Mart, continue through South Main Street and down Kennedy Boulevard, ending at the Cooper’s Co-op building.
Tomato Festival Grounds Supervisor and co-chairperson Jim Zarra will serve as grand marshal.
Saturday also features the Tomato Festival Queen Scholarship Pageant from 1 to 2 p.m. and live entertainment on the bandstand throughout the evening.
The biggest of all, however, just might be the tomato fights in Cooper’s parking lot. Hundreds of willing, and unwilling, participants will line up on either side of the parking lot and bombard each other with tomatoes. That starts at 1:30 p.m.
The tradition of the tomato fights began in 1944 in Bunol, Spain. Every year, truckloads of tomatoes are dumped into the town square and everyone is fair game as they crush and throw tomatoes at each other. The Pittston Tomato Fights will be a bit more organized, albeit still chaotic, and truckloads of fun.
Danny Argo and Friends begin the entertainment at 2:30 p.m. Saturday. They will be followed by Jump the Train and 3 Imaginary Boys.
The Tomato Contest begins at 7 p.m. in the committee building. The largest, smallest, ugliest and most perfect tomatoes will be judged.
Banana Hammocks, Eddie Appnel and Flaxy Morgan will finish out the entertainment on Saturday evening.
The Little Miss and Little Mister Tomato Contest will be held from 10:45 a.m. to noon on Sunday. Entertainment will be another highlight of the day on Sunday. Until the festival closes at 10 p.m., local musicians will be at the bandshell.
Sauce Wars is back and better than ever. Last year’s champ was Grico’s Restaurant of Exeter. Taste-testers can vote for the best sauce throughout the weekend at the Tomato Festival Committee stand.
For another year, festival-goers can bring their Dispatch Dollar (or regular cash, of course) to the Sunday Dispatch Booth 47 for a chance to win several different prizes by spinning a wheel. This year’s prizes include a die-cast limited edition Chevy Camaro, featuring the Sunday Dispatch logo.
Prizes also include Sunday Dispatch neon hipster sunglasses, frisbees, water bottles and many others.
All money raised at the Dispatch stand throughout the weekend will be donated to the Care and Concern Free Health Clinic.