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Photo: N/A, License: N/A, Created: 2019:11:14 23:11:27

DAVE SCHERBENCO / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Mila Lispi was crowned the 2019 Little Miss Tomato and Francisco ‘Franco’ Ramiza was named Little Mister Pittston Tomato.

Photo: N/A, License: N/A, Created: 2019:11:14 23:07:50

DAVE SCHERBENCO / STAFF PHOTOGRAHER

Few occasions exist for which one might choose to wear a white gown.

A wedding day might spring to mind first, but for Katlin Evans of Harveys Lake, the Pittston Tomato Fight seemed like the ideal spot for her to debut and later wreck her pristine white dress.

“I was supposed to get married today,” she said as she prepared her veil, dress and bright red Tomato Fight goggles across the street from the Cooper’s parking lot on Saturday. “Hopefully this will take a little stress out.”

Evans wore her “back up” dress — one she bought and decided she did not like before purchasing what would have been her true wedding gown — into the fray of the annual Tomato Fight, one of the highlights of the annual Pittston Tomato Festival held last weekend.

“I can ruin this one,” Evans said, excitement mounting Saturday morning as she and her friends, dressed in “Team Kate” shirts, prepared for battle.

The Tomato Fight, held each year at the parking lot of the former Cooper’s on the Waterfront restaurant, topped off one of the busiest days of the annual festival.

Saturday, Aug. 17, the annual festival’s third day, began with the annual 5K race and walk through the streets of Pittston.

For Carmen Castellino of Exeter, that race marked his first ever 5K, which he ran in honor of his late uncle.

“My goal was to finish in under 40 minutes,” he said. “I barely did it, but I did it.”

Castellino’s family has been involved in the festival for most of his life he said, but he decided to run the 5K this year in honor of his uncle Philip who “used to run the big 6 wheel.”

“My goal next year is 35 minutes,” he said.

Immediately after the race, the annual Tomato Festival Parade began its trek along Main Street. Despite torrential rain early in the day, the skies cleared in time for crowds to line the streets and watch the floats, cars and walkers pass.

Outgoing festival committee chairwoman Lori Nocito hopped from attraction to attraction Saturday, making sure everything unfolded without a hitch.

“I’m very happy with the turnout,” she said. “Everything is running smoothly.”

Saturday evening also saw the first art walk incorporated into the Tomato Festival using the newly opened third tier and amphitheater behind the Pittston Memorial Library.

The Second Friday Art Walk vendors and local musicians performing a Woodstock tribute closed the third day of the festival, until Sunday when the final day of the festival kicked off with the annual Little Miss and Little Mister Tomato Festival pageant.

Franco Ramiza, 4, was crowned Little Mister Tomato and Mila Lispi, 2, won the title of Little Miss Tomato Festival.

Nocito always expects about 50,000 people to attend the festival each year, and her final year as chair proved no different.

“It has been very well-attended,” she said.

The festival did experience some wild weather.

Nocito said the grounds had to be evacuated temporarily late Saturday night and early Sunday evening when rain and wind swept through with thunderstorms.

“On Sunday as soon as the storm passed, people came out to enjoy the final hours of the festival,” she said.

The storms did cause some of the farm vendors on the lower level to leave by Sunday night, but Nocito said most stayed and had a successful weekend.

The rainy weather couldn’t keep the Tomato Festival down, just as a cancelled wedding couldn’t damper Evans’ spirits.

Evans said she plans to return next year after her first Tomato Fight experience. When the horn blew and the music started, she charged toward the front, despite her dress making her a noticeable target, particularly for three paintball masked fighters rushing toward the front line on the other side.

“That was a lot of fun,” she said after the fight, her gown staining pink, marking where she had taken a few hits. “I laughed and laughed and laughed.”

Among her paintball masked nemeses were two others participating in their first ever Tomato Fight.

“I was quite nervous, I didn’t know what to expect,” said Matt Lettieri of Avoca. “I’m very happy I did it.”

Ryan Reap, also of Avoca, planned to return next year.

“I’m definitely coming back,” he said.

Evans took stock of the damage to her dress following the fight.

“It’s ruined enough,” she said. “I’m going to a campfire tonight so I’m either going to burn it or throw it in the garbage.”

As the fighters dispersed on Saturday, Nocito looked forward to the constant staples of the festival — food and entertainment.

“Now we’re just going to eat and enjoy,” she said.

sscinto@pittstonprogress.com

Pittston Tomato Festival Committee recognized its 2019 festival sponsors.

GOLD SPONSORS:

Comcast

Comprehensive Pain Management

Bath Savers

Visit Luzerne County

SILVER SPONSORS

Action Lift Inc.

Landmark Bank

Luzerne County Community College

Reilly Associates

BRONZE SPONSORS

Acton Technologies

All Service Rite Inc.

Atty. Michael Butera

Friends of Mike Carroll

Luzerne Bank

Mechanical Services Co.

Tambur Family Foundation

FRIENDS

Joseph R. Aliciene & Co.

Community Bank

Creative Printing Specialties

Edward Jones/Susan Dantona Jolley

Fidelity Bank

Fiesler Signs

Highway Federal Credit Union

Latona Trucking

Liberty Tax Service

Mohegan Sun Pocono

Northeast Window

Citizens for John Yudichak