Participants in tomato fight duck so as not to get hit by hurling tomatoes Saturday afternoon at Pittston festival.BILL TARUTIS/FOR THE TIMES LEADER
Tomato festival-goers engage in the annual tomato fights on Saturday afternoon.BILL TARUTIS/FOR THE TIMES LEADER
PITTSTON – An estimated 50,000 people will visit the city of Pittston during the 26th annual Pittston Tomato Festival. On Saturday, the traditional parade and festivities attracted athletes, musicians, parade marchers and tomato throwers from all over Northeast Pennsylvania and neighboring metropolitan areas, according to festival officials.
Lori Nocito, chairwoman of the Tomato Festival Committee, said this weekend will match previous years’ attendance and fun. Ben Tielle, committee volunteer since 2001, pointed out both Thursday and Friday nights were the “busiest” nights since he became involved.
The activities started with the 5K race through the neighborhoods of Pittston where more than 300 long distance runners braved the heat and humidity. Jay Duffy, race organizer, said the race this year was done in honor of his father and dedicated festival volunteer, Jimmy Duffy, who passed away in February and state trooper and Pittston native Joshua Miller, who was killed in the line of duty in June.
The previous record of 240 runners was “shattered,” Duffy said. He described the race as “brutal” especially the hill on Swallow Street. Jeffery McCabe, 25, finished with a time of 15:58; the first female runner Maria DeMuro, 24, finished in 19:53. Bob Dolle, 62, took first place in the 60-plus age group finishing in 26:09.
Captain James Murtin, troop commander from Hazleton, led a contingent of 80 state police runners from all over Pennsylvania to show their “never ending support” for the Miller family.
After the run, a long parade of marching bands from Pittston Area and Wyoming Area School Districts, numerous business sponsors, local government officials, members of the military and children’s groups lined Main Street.
Shortly after the parade the increasingly popular tomato fight, drew almost 200 battlers, according to Nocito. Some were dressed in tuxedos, others wore funny hats and still others donned targets as they hurled about 5,000 pounds of fruit trajectories at one another for 20 minutes. Nocito said the winners were the ones who had the most fun.
Jason McCabe, of West Pittston, and Tia Biscotti, of Dupont, shared a snack after the fight both covered in tomato seeds and skins. Both participated for the third year in a row.
Biscotti said her arm smarted a little from taking hits, but she spent most of her time laughing. Biscotti said she took particular aim at her friends during the melee. McCabe added he enjoyed using fists full of tomatoes to pelt his opponents.
Carmella Gubbiotti, of Inkerman, took the crown as the new Miss Pittston Tomato Festival Queen beating out six other contestants. A recent graduate from Pittston Area, she attends King’s College in Wilkes-Barre planning to pursue a professional writing and legal career.
“I’m ecstatic and honored,” she beamed, adorned in a bright red gown. She added she is prepared to “give back to the community.”
Other activities included a long list of musical entertainment of all genres such as the Jimmy T. Elvis Tribute, the Mark Mack Orchestra and local rock band favorite Flaxy Morgan. And, festival-goers chose the most perfect tomato and the best tasting sauce.
For those who developed an appetite after all of the fun and frivolity, an assortment of area restaurants and vendors offered a wide variety of foods. Nocito added the festival is “spilling over” to Main Street, Pittston, as businesses set up sidewalk displays catering to the foot traffic.
Nocito made a point to thank the many sponsors of the event who continue to offer their support for the festival. She lauded a recent article in the Washington Post that touted the festival as a great place to enjoy “red sauce Italian cooking.”