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Community Roots: Selections from the Local Legacies Project
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Little Miss and Little Mr. Pittston Tomato Festival, 1999
Little Miss and Little Mr. Pittston Tomato Festival, 1999 Photo: Lori Nocito

Pittston Tomato Festival

This annual four-day summer event attracts more than 40,000 visitors to Pittston each year. Now in its 16th year, it was founded in 1984 as a tribute to the backyard farmer's fruit and local crop. In the 1930s Pittston was dubbed the "Tomato Capital of the World," because it fulfilled the high demand for tomatoes by metropolitan New York. Pittston is located in the northeast region of the state and its soil and climate are especially conducive to tomato breeding. Fifteen to sixteen thousand acres of farm land in the region are used for commercial tomato growing, and backyard tomato gardens are common throughout the region. The Pittston Tomato Festival is a tribute to the region's tomato growers; over the years tomato growers have brought their best tomatoes to the festival for tasting and to sell. In 1999, a new 2,400 square-foot solarium was built in Pittston and will be used to develop a breed of tomato distinctive to the Pittston area.

In addition to a parade with marching bands and floats, the 1999 Pittston Tomato Festival featured a vast assortment of ethnic foods, games, arts, crafts, rides, live entertainment by musical groups the "Backstreets" and the "Stewed Tomatoes," dance performances, a square dancing demonstration, a strolling accordionist, and a 5K race. There was also a children's beauty contest, a children's sing-along, a Tomato Queen Scholarship pageant, the selection of a Little Miss and Little Mr. Pittston Tomato Festival, and a raffle, whose grand prize was a trip for two to Italy. The largest, smallest, ugliest and most unusual tomatoes were awarded prizes in the annual Tomato Competition. Any profits from the festival are donated to local charities.

Project documentation includes a 3-page report, 26 8 x 20 color photographs, newspaper articles, a program for the 1999 event, a video of the 1998 Tomato Festival parade, flyers and a t-shirt.

Originally submitted by: Paul E. Kanjorski, Representative (11th District).

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The Local Legacies project provides a "snapshot" of American Culture as it was expressed in spring of 2000. Consequently, it is not being updated with new or revised information with the exception of "Related Website" links.

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