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Photo: Kristen Mullen, License: N/A, Created: 2008:08:16 19:28:49

THE CITIZENS’ VOICE FILE PHOTO Pittston Tomato Festival Chairwoman Lori Nocito will leave the committee after this year’s festival.

All good things must come to an end.

Fortunately for the city of Pittston, that good thing lasted 22 years and produced 22 successful Tomato Festivals.

Pittston Tomato Festival committee chairwoman Lori Nocito will be stepping down from the position she has held for more than two decades after the conclusion of this year’s festival.

“For 22 years, it’s been a labor of love and when I reflect back on all that I’ve accomplished I’m very proud of our committee, our entire team, and city administration and the way we’ve worked together,” Nocito said.

Nocito joined the tomato committee in 1998 when Pittston City Mayor Mike Lombardo took office. The team has remained the same until Nocito announced her retirement from the committee last month.

“Back in 1998, when I was first elected to office, we were busy planning being elected into office, but one of the things that got dropped into our laps was the tomato festival,” Lombardo said. “Without Lori’s involvement, we wouldn’t have been able to pull it off. She’s spent over 20 years putting in a lot of time coordinating and really being the quarterback of this committee.”

Nocito said she initially planned to stay involved with the festival after stepping down as committee chairwoman, but ultimately decided to take a full step back.

“Originally, I said I would stay on the committee, but I think that may be detrimental for the new chairperson,” Nocito said.

“I just need to take a backseat and step away for a bit. I’ll be there as an adviser, or however I can contribute, but I think as an official member, I’m not sure if I would continue on the committee. I think we need new volunteers and they are most welcome.”

Lombardo announced Wednesday he would be taking over as the committee’s chairman next year.

“It was a daunting task,” Lombardo said of Nocito taking charge of the festival. “It was tough and Lori really stepped up and she really had to reconstruct it from the ground up.”

The 36th annual Pittston Tomato Festival will be held Thursday, Aug. 15, through Sunday, Aug. 18, at the festival lots in downtown Pittston. The event is expected to attract more than 50,000 people.

The opening ceremony will begin at 6 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 15. The festival continues all weekend long and will include food, games, vendors, live music and contests.

The Tomato Festival 5K Run and Fun Walk will be held at 10 a.m. Saturday, Aug. 17, with registration beginning at 8 a.m. at the Pittston YMCA. A parade down Main Street and Kennedy Boulevard will follow, beginning at 10:30 a.m. The parade will be televised live on Fox 56.

The tomatoes will fly Saturday afternoon at the annual tomato fights, which begin at 1:30 p.m. at the Waterfront Warehouse, the former Cooper’s Waterfront parking lot. Entry fee is $10. Participants must be 12 or older.

The festival concludes Sunday, Aug. 18, highlighted by the Little Miss and Little Mr. Tomato Contest, which begins at 10:45 a.m. Live entertainment will continue until the festival closes at 9 p.m.

For information, call 570-655-1424 or visit www.pittstontomatofestival.com.