Pittston prepares for annual Tomato Festival in all of its saucy glory

PITTSTON — “Big Red” or “Captain Pomodoro?”

“Ruby” or “Mari Nara?”

“Sauzzee?” “Beefsteak?” “Cherry Plum?”

Those are a few of the suggestions fans of the Pittston Tomato Festival posted to the festival’s Facebook page last year, hoping for the honor of naming a plump red mascot that would march in the parade, pose for photos, and boost enthusiasm for all things tomato during the annual four-day festival.

“I didn’t have a name until the last day,” said Stew the Tomato, who is also known as Rosie Fasciana, a preschool teacher and member of the festival committee.

One of Stew the Tomato’s goals is to make everyone, especially children, feel welcome at the festival, which is set for today through Sunday in downtown Pittston.

“I will get down and give them a high five or a little fist bump and make sure they won’t be afraid of me,” Fasciana said.

Truly, there should be nothing to fear at the Tomato Festival.

Not the “ugliest tomato” contest, which gives backyard growers hope of winning a prize, even when they know they don’t have a contender for the “biggest,” “smallest” or “most perfect” tomato. (Bring entries to the committee stand for judging at 7 p.m. Saturday.)

While “sauce wars” might sound intimidating, they’re simply a chance for festival-goers to pay $2 to sample seven tomato sauces from area restaurants and vote for their favorite. Trying to take the crown from last year’s winner, CrisNics, of Wilkes-Barre, are Andy Perugino’s, of Luzerne; AuRants, of Duryea; Grico’s, of Exeter; Marianacci’s, of Wyoming, and Pazzo, of Pittston.

As survivors of the festival’s popular “tomato fights” will tell you, they’re simply good, clean fun. Or rather, they’re messy, be-sure-to-wear-your-goggles fun. But festival chairperson Lori Nocito emphasizes the fun part.

“Don’t hold back. Just throw them with all your might and have a blast,” said Nocito, who gives that advice to all participants,…

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