The Pittston People Festival

Yes, I’ll miss the food. Oh, the food.
Yes, I’ll miss the entertainment. Local musical artists I love. Every night for four straight nights.
Yes, I’ll miss the parade. Even with my achy, 70-year-old knees, I love walking down Main Street with my Pittston Progress colleagues handing out individually wrapped Swedish fish and tossing little stuffed animals and tennis balls (something I’ve added in recent years) to the kiddos and adults lining the route.
Yes, I’ll miss a cold beer, or three, in the fire department garage.
And, yes, I’ll miss the Tomato Fights. Watching not participating.
But what I will miss most since this year’s Pittston Tomato Festival has been cancelled due to coronavirus concerns, is the people.
To me – and I believe I speak for most of us who call this place home – the Pittston Tomato Festival could just as easily be called the Pittston People Festival.
As fabulous as all of the above is, it is getting together with each other that makes the festival what it is. And many times it’s getting together with folks who have moved away but return each August, or as many Augusts as they can.
It’s turning around and seeing the smiling face of Ricky Walsh, a kid I grew up with, a guy who married my classmate, the former Angela Voveris, visiting from Florida where the two had lived for 20 years.
It’s running into another classmate Joe Scarantino, driving in from the Carolinas just for the festival.
It’s hearing someone calling my name and seeing Bobby Keating, big brother of my boyhood friend Billy Keating. Or Jimmy Booth, whom I had not seen in decades and a mutual friend making me do a guessing game as to who he was, and failing, finally having to admit I did not know. It’s talking Dr. Tom Meade into participating in the Sauce Wars event, cautioning him to not get sauce on his shirt and then insisting on buying him a Tomato Festival T-shirt when he does. It’s Dan Conte, on his Jazzy chair, and his wife Kathy joining me on the Tomato Bar deck.
And on and on.
And on.
I don’t need the Pittston Tomato Festival to be able to enjoy blueberry lasagna, that luscious creation of Patti and Fred Marianacci. I can have it any time i want at their restaurant. But I do need it to be able to throw my arms around all those old friends.

Ed Ackerman