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Tomato fest a total success

As music filled the downtown air and people waited in line for their favorite festival foods, Pittston City Mayor Mike Lombardo looked out over a crowd he hadn’t seen since 2019.

“We’re back,” he said.

The Pittston Tomato Festival returned last weekend, bringing live music, rows of vendors and excited, hungry patrons back to downtown Pittston. After canceling the festival in 2020, what would have been the mayor’s “rookie season” as chairperson of the Tomato Festival Committee, Lombardo said he had been hopeful about holding the festival this summer.

“For us in the city, we have a lot of other great events, but this is the signature event,” he said. “I missed it last year, so it’s really good to be back.”

The festival opened on Thursday, Aug. 19, and ran until Sunday, Aug. 22. Some features of the festival could not happen this year, such as Saturday’s traditional Tomato Fight, but events like the annual Tomato Festival Parade, the annual 5K race, and the Little Miss and Little Mister Tomato Pageant returned in full swing.

Committee member Sarah Donahue coordinated the parade this year, where “all essential workers” were dubbed the grand marshal.

“I think it was great,” Donahue said. “It was one of the biggest crowds that I’ve seen for the Tomato Festival Parade.”

Prior to the parade, the 5K race was on. Chris McCabe, 31, of Boiling Springs, and Rebecca Sebastian, 31, of Randolph, New Jersey, came away with the winning times in the men’s and women’s categories.

Come Sunday, Ari Dempsey was crowned Little Miss Tomato and Maverick Fabbri was named Little Mister Tomato.

But on Friday night, the festival’s food took center stage for those making their way downtown. Lombardo said he spotted several people who came to the festival lots solely to pick up their favorite foods and head home.

“Which is good, whatever they’re comfortable doing,” he said.

John and Amanda Popko, of Duryea, waited in one of the longest lines of the night for a chicken scampi sandwich from Grico’s.

“We come every year, obviously we missed last year,” John Popko said. “It’s a wild mess right now, but it’s good to see people back out and businesses prospering.”

Prospering vendors were exactly what Lombardo hoped to see over the weekend.

“At the end of the day for us, I want the vendors to do well,” he said. “They got really hurt last year ... I want to see them do well, they deserve it.”

On opening night, Lombardo said several vendors had to send workers back to their main businesses to restock their festival stands.

“So that’s a good sign,” he said. “When Thursday night kicks off hard, it puts you in a good spot.”

Organizers said around 75,000 people came through the festival grounds by the time they closed for the season on Sunday evening.

“I think people are just happy to be out,” Lombardo said.


Duryea: Holy Rosary PTO plans back-to-school pasta dinner

It’s hard to believe a new school year begins Monday, but it is arriving indeed! As you make your morning and afternoon drives —particularly near schools — please be sure to drive with extra caution for the safety of our students.

As many of you jump into this new school year, why not skip cooking dinner one evening this week and leave it to Amadeo’s Restaurant? They are making a special delivery to Duryea on Tuesday, Aug. 31, and you do not want to miss it.

The Holy Rosary School Parent Teacher Organization will host a takeout pasta dinner from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 31, in the school cafeteria, 125 Stephenson St.

The meal from Amadeo’s includes penne pasta and meatballs in red sauce, a salad with dressing, bread, butter and cake.

Dinners are $14 each and can be ordered online at www.holyrosaryduryea.org. All orders must be placed by Monday, Aug. 30, and can be picked up at the back parking lot entrance to the cafeteria.

Collections schedule

Duryea Street Department collection schedule for the week of Aug. 29 is: garbage, Monday, Aug. 30, and Tuesday, Aug. 31; plastic and glass recycling, Wednesday, Sept. 1; cardboard and paper recycling, Thursday, Sept. 2, and yard waste, Friday, Sept. 3. For information, call the street department at 570-655-1299.

Police association dinner

Duryea Borough Police Association will host its second annual porketta dinner from 5 to 7 p.m. Friday, Sept. 3, in the Holy Rosary School cafeteria, 125 Stephenson St. Menu includes porketta, mashed potatoes, a vegetable, roll and dessert.

Tickets are $15 and can be purchased online via the Duryea Borough Police Association Facebook page. All proceeds will be used by the association to obtain training equipment for the police department.

VFW horseshoe league

Duryea Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 1227 will its fall horseshoe league Wednesday, Sept. 8, at the post, 492 Stephenson St. The registration sheet is available at the post.

9/11 ceremony

Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 1227 will host a 9/11 20th anniversary commemorative ceremony at 6 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 11 at the post home, 529 Stephenson St. The Sperazza Band will perform an outdoor show following the ceremony.

Brick U.M. chicken dinner

Brick United Methodist Church will host a drive-thru chicken dinner from noon to 2 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 2, at the church, 935 Foote Ave. The meal includes chicken, baked beans, potato salad, roll and dessert. Tickets are $12. Please contact Debbie Parente at 570-878-8020 by Monday, Sept. 20, to reserve tickets.

Tax payments

Martin Hanczyc, Duryea Borough tax collector, announces the Pittston Area School District tax payment is due. Residents may pay their taxes from 1 to 3 p.m. and 5 to 7 p.m. Tuesdays and 5 to 7 p.m. Thursdays at the municipal building, 315 Main St. Residents also can mail or hand-deliver taxes to 79 Main St., Duryea, PA 18642. Anyone who needs a receipt should enclose the complete bill and a self-addressed, stamped envelope with their payment.

Call 570-457-2482 with questions.

Germania wine fest

Germania Hose Company will host its fifth annual wine fest from 1 to 6 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 2, on the hose company grounds, 430 Foote Ave. Sample local wineries, breweries, craft vendors, food trucks and live entertainment. Tickets are $20 in advance and $25 at the door. Designated drivers will be admitted for $5. All those attending must be 21 or older. Tickets can be purchased in advance from any hose company member.

Birthday greetings

Happy birthday to Peggy Brostoski Mac Rae, who will celebrate Sunday, Aug. 29, and to Kenny Perrins, who will celebrate Monday, Aug. 30.

That’s about it for this week, my friends.

Thanks for reading, and have a great week!

Jackie Borthwick-Galvin writes about Duryea every week. To list an item, email jborthwickgalvin@pittstonprogress.com or call 570-301-2171 by 5 p.m. Monday.

Many sides to Coach Barbieri

Where do I begin to talk about Bob Barbieri?

How about the Corning Glass Museum in Corning, New York?

After touring the museum, Marty Sowa and I huddled with Coach Barbieri outside the door and looked out at a torrential downpour and my car all the way across the parking lot.

I glanced at Marty and knew what he was thinking.

I did not play football for Coach Barbieri, but Marty did. I had heard a ton of Coach Barbieri stories through him and was well aware of the one that fit this occasion.

Marty often told of the day a player came up to the coach in what passed for a locker room in the basement of the old Garfield School and told him it was pouring rain outside.

“So?” the coach said.

“So, are we still having practice?” the player asked.

“Are they shooting bullets at us?” Barbieri asked right back.

“Well, no,” the player answered.

“Then we’re having practice,” Barbieri said.

Sure enough, that’s what was on Marty’s mind that day in Corning. “Coach,” he said through a sly grin, “are they shooting bullets at us?”

And with that, the three of us took off running through the rain, Coach Barbieri leading the way.

He was about 65 then and looked no different from the man who taught us health and phys-ed in high school and coached the football team.

Coach Barbieri died last Sunday and as sad as it was to read his obituary Tuesday morning, I had to smile when I saw his kids referred to him as an “educator and football coach.” Maria and Nick knew their dad well. He always saw himself as an educator first and a coach second. Or better put, as an educator even when coaching.

As I said, I did not play football in high school, but as a student in Mr. Barbieri’s classes, I was well aware he respected me, and everyone else, as much as he did his players. We all belonged to him.

Upon hearing of his death, former player Bob Licata said Coach Barbieri was, “The only person I worked to impress other than my mom and dad.”

This reminded me of a Coach Barbieri encounter I haven’t thought about in years. It was 1996 and I had been divorced for about a year. When my kids moved off to New Jersey, I had a lot of time on my hands. I chose to spend it at the gym.

Joe Curry invited me to speak to his journalism classes at Pittston Area and as I went looking for his room, I bumped into Coach Barbieri. I remember what I was wearing: khaki pants, a denim shirt and a Beatles Yellow Submarine tie. “Look at you,” the Coach said, eying me up and down, “you look like a drill sergeant.”

What he said wasn’t as important as who said it. Little did Coach Barbieri know how desperately I needed a boost at that point in my life. Or maybe he did.

Mike Martin, an All Scholastic receiver on Coach Barbieri’s undefeated 1967 team, after hearing of his death, emailed: “Maybe the sign of a great coach is when 500 guys fervently believe each was his favorite.” Probably more like thousands of guys … and girls. I didn’t play for him, but that’s how Coach Barbieri made me feel that day in the doorway of his classroom.

Because I landed a job as a sportswriter, I got to spend a lot of time with Coach Barbieri, including several day trips like the one to Corning after his coaching and my sports writing careers ended. I covered Coach Barbieri’s teams for nearly 15 years and what I remember most are the pre-season interviews when he insisted I mention every single player. “He’s a good kid,” he’d say, “but he might not play a lot. Let’s get his name in the paper now.”

Coach Barbieri never said an unkind word about an opposing coach, player or team. Just the opposite. He had tremendous respect for everyone involved in the sport.

I got to know a Bob Barbieri that those who thought he was nothing more than a fiery guy on the sidelines would find hard to believe. I got to know Bob Barbieri the intellectual, Bob Barbieri the philosopher, Bob Barbieri the kind, loving spirit.

This Bob Barbieri is best illustrated in a story he told me a few years ago and I wrote in this column a while back.

Bob’s daughter-in-law, Nina, is a nurse. She was caring for a patient one day when he noticed her name tag and said he once had a high school football coach named Barbieri.

“That’s my father-in-law,” Nina said.

When the patient asked how Coach Barbieri was doing, Nina told him Bob stopped at their house every evening after supper to visit with his little granddaughter Mia, and take her out in the backyard to talk about the flowers and the butterflies. Then they’d watch the sunset together.

“Oh,” the patient said, “I must be thinking of a different Coach Barbieri.”

Right. Probably the one who would only cancel practice if they were “shooting bullets at us.”

Ed Ackerman writes The Optimist. Look for his blogs online during the week at pittstonprogress.com.