If you live in Northeast Pennsylvania (NEPA), and you don’t live under a rock, you have heard about the Pittston Tomato Festival. This year, the annual “Tomato is King” event is scheduled in mid-August in downtown Pittston, PA. Once again, the (almost) world famous Tomato Fights will be the highlight of the four-day event, which will also include a 5K Run, the Pittston Tomato Festival Queen scholarship pageant, and the Little Miss and Little Mister Pittston Tomato pageant. New this year will be Sauce Wars, where local restaurants and vendors will compete for best marinara sauce.
According to their website, www.pittstontomatofestival.com, over 150,000 people will attend the festival. Local bands will entertain the crowds every evening as the majority of attendees indulge in delicious food and drink, both traditional and ethnic. As one of the 150,000 in years past, I can attest to the fact that the food is perhaps, in my opinion, the biggest draw of the festival. The smell alone is enough to make one’s mouth water with offerings ranging from pizza to “piggies”, steak sandwiches to subs, crab cakes to cannolis, gelato to gyros, and ice cream to iced coffee. Of course the beer will be a-flowing too, to wash down whatever samplings in which you indulge. Over the course of the 4 day fest, local bands like M-80, Flaxy Morgan, Bad Hair Day (my personal fave – an 80’s throwback band complete with wigs!) and the wildly popular and successful Jeanne Zano Band will be performing.
The annual 5K run through downtown Pittston is immediately followed by an old-fashioned, small town parade down Main Street. After that, head over to the Pittston Tomato Festival Queen contest, with the winner being awarded a $500 scholarship. Contestants are required to exhibit their talent by creating a commercial for the Fest, in the form of a song, dance, etc. which turn out to be really entertaining. However, the real entertainment for the day can be found after the pageant, when the Tomato Fights begin. As popular as weekend festivals are during the summer in NEPA, this is what makes the Tomato Fest the cr¨me de la cr¨me of all the festivals. How many opportunities do you get to sling rotten tomatoes at other people? For a small fee of $5, with all proceeds benefitting local charities, you get a pair of protective goggles and all the tomatoes you can fling. Space is limited to 150 participants, and sell out early!
According to the Times Leader, the NEPA’s local newspaper, the Pittston Tomato Festival was named by Parade Magazine as one of the Top 50 Festivals in the Nation. Even if you dislike tomatoes, the Festival is something not to be missed and provides good quality entertainment for the whole family. And the food! Oh the food! Did I mention the food?