Pittston Tomato Festival returns for 37th year after COVID-related hiatus

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PITTSTON, LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) — It’s been called one of the most historic and best festivals in northeastern Pennsylvania.

Thousands flock to the Pittston Tomato Festival to celebrate home-grown Pittston tomatoes. Thursday kicked off the four-day event.

During the Great Depression, Pittston fulfilled the high demand for tomatoes by New York City. It was dubbed the “tomato capital of the world.” About 50 years later, the Pittston Tomato Festival was founded to celebrate those farmers and their local crop.

After a year off due to COVID, organizers were thrilled to welcome back the festival for its 37th year.

“Well what I’d like to say is welcome back! Welcome back to Pittston, come down and enjoy yourself. We’ve got a heck of a lot of stuff to do down here, especially eat,” grounds committee chairman Jim Zarra said.

The main attraction? The food! Primarily Italian food from Pittston’s local restaurants. That’s Jason Sabatelle’s specialty. His family has been serving festival visitors for more than 20 years. This year they have plenty of mouths to feed.

“More people showing up at every single one and that’s what you want! My father, his rules are: you never run out, so I never have! And I never will,” Sabatelle said.

Around 4,000 to 6,000 people came through Opening Day and organizers say they expect that number to triple on Saturday.

The festival has evolved over the years, and with it, the city itself. Tomatoes became a permanent fixture on Main Street, along with public art and a growing number of small businesses.

“They’re really trying to develop the scenery and the awareness for the city so it’s great for everyone to be out again,” Lee Monteforte of Knights of Columbus, Pittston said.

“It’s a tight-knit community down here so you know you get to see your friends, your family and you get the good food to go along with it,” Aaron Sulla of West Pittston said.

The festival hosts lots of live entertainment, a parade, a 5k run and of course delicious food. The event runs through Sunday.

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