The streets of downtown Pittston will run red once again when the Tomato Festival returns to town next week.
The four-day festival will open on Thursday, Aug. 17, at 5 p.m. for the 34th year, bringing all of the city’s tomato-flinging, sauce-tasting and community-parading favorites back for another year.
“I’m looking forward to it all coming together and to see the crowds come out to enjoy all that the festival has to offer over the entire four days,” said organizer Lori Nocito. “The food is great, but the people are the best part.”
While this is the festival’s 34th year, Nocito said this year marks the 20th year volunteering for the current Tomato Festival Committee.
“I can’t believe it’s been 20 years,” she said.
The committee will wear hunter green T-shirts as opposed to their typical red as a throwback to the first committee shirts they all wore 20 years ago.
“We’re still going strong,” she said.
The festival opens at 5 p.m. on Thursday with opening ceremonies planned for 6 p.m. The night goes on until 10 p.m., with musical acts keeping the festival spirits up.
Local bands will command the stage on Friday night, with the Phyliss Hopkins Trio scheduled to kick off the evening at 5:30 p.m.
Saturday’s events start bright and early.
City police will start shutting down streets in the downtown area by 9:30 a.m. to make way for the 5K race, which will start at 10 a.m.
This year’s race will be dedicated to former Pittston police Chief Greg Policare, who passed away earlier this month.
Once the race concludes, the annual Tomato Parade will take over downtown. The parade steps off at 10:30 a.m. and will feature grand marshal Jimmy Cefalo and Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf among the many community groups and businesses walking the parade route along Main Street.
“It’s just so wonderful to have Jimmy Cefalo home again,” Nocito said of the Pittston native and Miami Dolphins great. “He’s had such an impressive career.”
She also looked forward to welcoming Wolf to Pittston.
“It’s just a wonderful opportunity to have the governor with us,” she said.
Once the parade wraps up, people will have a chance to enjoy the main festival grounds on the Tomato Festival Lot before heading over to join the annual Tomato Fight at Cooper’s on the Waterfront. The popular event starts at 1:30 p.m. on the lot outside the restaurant.
While the fight rages on, contestants in the Tomato Festival Queen Scholarship Pageant will take the stage to vie for this year’s crown.
Once the winner is named, Danny Argo and Friends will kick off the evening of music at 2:30 p.m.
Sunday’s events start early with the Little Miss and Little Mr. Tomato pageant at 10:45 a.m.
Throughout the four days festival, attendees will have a chance to taste and vote on seven contestants in the annual Sauce Wars competition. Reigning champion CrisNics of Wilkes-Barre will submit their sauce for judging against sauces from AuRants of Duryea, Andy Perugino Restaurant of Luzerne, Grico’s of Exeter, Mariannacci’s Restaurant of Wyoming and Pazzo of Pittston.
Nocito said the weather forecast looks good for a solid four days at the festival. She expected to see around 50,000 people over the course of the event.
“We see people from farther and farther away,” she said. “We love to welcome out-of-towners to the City of Pittston during the festival.”
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Thursday, Aug. 17
5 p.m. - Festival opens
6 p.m. - Opening Ceremony
6:30 p.m. -7 p.m. - Windfall
7:30 p.m. - 8:15 p.m. - Fab 3
8:45 p.m. - 10 p.m. - The Banana Hammocks
Friday, Aug. 18
5:30 p.m. - 6:30 p.m. - Phyllis Hopkins Trio
7 p.m. - 8:15 p.m. - The Sperazza Band
9 p.m. - 11 p.m. - The Idol Kings - Tribute to Journey and John Cougar
Saturday, Aug. 19
9:30 a.m. - Streets blocked for 5K race and parade
10 a.m. - 5K Race and Fun Walk
10:30 a.m. - Parade
11 a.m. - Race Awards Ceremony
1:30 p.m. - Tomato Fight at Cooper’s Waterfront
1 p.m. - 2 p.m. - Tomato Festival Queen Scholarship Pageant
2:30 p.m. - 3:15 p.m. - Danny Argo and Friends
4:00 p.m. - 4:45 p.m. - Kindred Souls
5:30 p.m. - 6:30 p.m. - Jump the Train Featuring Billy Knowles
7 p.m. - Tomato Contest at the Committee stand - largest, smallest, most perfect and ugliest tomato
7:15 p.m. - 8:15 p.m. - Jeanna Zano Band
9 p.m. - 11 p.m. - Sweet Petter and the Long Hots
Sunday, Aug. 20
10:45 a.m. - 12 p.m. - Little Miss and Little Mr. Tomato Contest
1 p.m. - 1:30 p.m. - Perfect Harmony Center for the Arts
2 p.m. - 3 p.m. - Picture Perfect
4 p.m. - 5:30 p.m. - The Poets
6:30 p.m. - 7 p.m. - Sidestreet Revisited: A tribute to Big Gene Guarilia
7:30 p.m. - 9 p.m. - Flaxy Morgan