It’s here! The event of the summer is upon us, something many throughout Greater Pittston have looked forward to for the past 35 years. The Pittston Tomato Festival begins Thursday, Aug. 16 and runs through Sunday, Aug. 19.
Local school districts and colleges will begin the 2018 school year shortly but, before that happens, end-of-summer activities go out with a bang as our area celebrates the red, ripe tomato born from an idea by the late Val D’Elia in 1983.
The Pittston Tomato Festival Committee, consisting of 40 to 50 people and dozens of volunteers who put the event together, is ready as the event is shaping up to be a great one.
This year, the Second Friday Art Walk will be incorporated into the Tomato Fest where art vendors will line Main Street Thursday and Friday, adding excitement to the festival that promises to bring bigger crowds to downtown.
This year’s Grand Marshall will be retired city worker Sam Valenti. What a great honor for him.
For the past two years, a top or third tier had been planned for the Pittston Memorial Library grounds, but that won’t happen this year. An amphitheater scheduled to be built at that location is underway so it won’t be possible to use that area; hopefully, that may happen next year.
Each year, the festival sees as many as 50,000 visitors taking in great food and listening to locally talented musicians.
Such bands as Fab 3, Windfall, Old Friends, The Perazza Band, Sweet Pepper & the Long Hots, The Poets, Flaxy Morgan and others will provide this year’s entertainment.
A special entertainer has been added to this year’s schedule. Recording artist and West Wyoming native Bill Kelly, formerly of The Buoys, Jerry-Kelly, and Dakota fame, will thrill fans in a rare appearance. Bill will travel from his home in Nashville to play a storytellers set from 7:45 to 8:45 p.m. Saturday followed by Flaxy Morgan to close out the night.
Saturday nights have always been special at the Tomato Festival. Every night is busy but Saturday is a night where it seems like everyone in Greater Pittston attends the event.
The Poets, which has a huge following, has played on Sunday afternoon in years past but is scheduled to perform from 5:30 to 7 p.m. Saturday. Seats go fast for The Poets.
Don’t forget other events on the schedule like the Little Mr. & Miss Tomato Contest, the Tomato Queen Scholarship Pageant, Tomato Fights, Farmers Market, Sauce Wars, Tomato Contest (largest, smallest, ugliest, perfect tomato) and more.
Once again, Miles for Michael will benefit from the proceeds of the 5K run and fun walk at 10 a.m. Saturday. Roads and bridges will be closed at 9:30 a.m.
The parade will begin promptly at 10:30 a.m. with all parade participants asked to line up by 9:30 a.m. FOX-56 will broadcast the parade again this year.
Get your seats early for the Tomato Festival Queen Scholarship Pageant at 1 p.m. Saturday.
Britney Cheskiewicz, the 2017 Tomato Festival Queen, has done an outstanding job representing Great Pittston over the last year, but it’s time to hand over the crown to the 2018 pageant scholarship recipient.
The Tomato Fights will take place at 1:30 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 18 at Cooper’s Waterfront parking lot. Space is limited to 150 tomato hurlers, so get there early. Participants must be 15 years of age or older.
Catch the Little Mister and Little Miss Tomato Contest at 11 a.m. Sunday. Contestants are asked to be at the bandshell by 10:30 a.m.
Mayor Michael Lombardo, Jim Zarra and Lori Nocito, along Sarah Donahue and other committee members and volunteers, have worked hard to bring the best festival to northeast PA.
If you’re not much of a foodie, no worries, there’s an abundant of entertainment for everyone’s palette. If it’s not the music you seek, there’s plenty of farmers market food available, along with other vendors on site to take something home.
The Tomato Festival is a great place to walk about the grounds, run into old neighbors and friends and enjoy the dog days of summer.
Thirty five years is a long time. The Tomato Festival has evolved into a magnificent spectacle, showcasing great food, fabulous entertainment and the warmth of Greater Pittstonians.
Reach the Sunday Dispatch newsroom at 570-655-1418 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.