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Photo: N/A, License: N/A, Created: 2018:08:16 06:21:03

Opeing night crowd at the 2018 Pittston Tomato Festivalcv17tomatoWarren Ruda / The Citizens’ Voice

Photo: Christopher Dolan, License: N/A, Created: 2018:08:18 11:09:35

Wyoming Area cheerleaders walk in the Pittston Tomato Festival parade on Saturday, Aug. 18, 2018.Christopher Dolan / Staff Photographer

PITTSTON – This year’s Tomato Festival has a special cause – and a third level of activities for the annual weekend – and outgoing committee chair Lori Nocito can’t wait.

“The whole festival makes me smile,” she said. “It’s a labor of love.”

The Tomato Festival opens Thursday, Aug. 15, with a ceremony held on a new stage space near the committee building on the second level. Throughout the festival, committee members will wear special shirts designed to support one of their own, Ben Tielle, in his effort to find a kidney donor.

“What would really make me happy this year is if Ben found a kidney,” Nocito said.

She said the reach of the Tomato Festival has already spread the word and prompted several calls, but nothing has worked out yet.

“We’ll be wearing shirts that say ‘B Positive for Ben,’ because B Positive is his blood type,” she said. “And others that say ‘Will you share your spare?’ It’s critical that we spread the word.”

Throughout the weekend, the committee will support Tielle as they run four days of events, including events on the new “third tier” of the festival grounds which include the amphitheater behind the Pittston Memorial Library.

The festival will take full advantage of the third tier by combining forces with the Second Friday Art Walks. The third tier will host a full Art Walk from 5 to 9 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 17, to the sounds of a Woodstock Tribute coordinated by Lino Terzi, owner of The Music Scene.

“All the bands will be playing music from the ’60s,” Terzi said. “I want people to have a good time and go back in time a little bit.”

Nocito said she is excited to see the third tier in use.

“We’ve always wanted to utilize the third tier,” she said.

The festival kicks off at 5 p.m. Thursday with opening ceremonies followed by live music until 10 p.m.

Entertainment starts at 5:30 p.m. Friday, Aug. 16, with artist Dani-elle followed by The Sperazza Band and Sweet Pepper and the Long Hots.

Saturday will host the main festivities starting with the annual 5K Race and Fun Walk at 10 a.m. and the Tomato Festival Parade at 10:30 a.m. Roads in downtown will close at 9:30 a.m. to accommodate the race and parade.

The parade will have two grand marshals this year — long-time Meals on Wheels volunteer Louise Smith and World War II veteran Chester Montante.

The Perfect Harmony Singers will take the bandshell stage at 1 p.m. Saturday just before the Tomato Fights break out at the Waterfront Warehouse at 1:30 p.m.

“I can’t wait,” Nocito said of the fights.

Live music continues at the bandshell and at the amphitheater during the Art Walk leading up to 7 p.m. when the winners of the Tomato Contest will be announced.

The final day of the festival, Sunday, Aug. 18, will open at 10:45 a.m. for the Little Miss and Little Mr. Tomato Contest followed by music at the bandshell until 9 p.m.

Nocito said they expect about 50,000 people at the festival over the course of the four days.

This festival will be particularly sentimental for Nocito following her decision to step down as committee head after this year after 22 years of putting on the festival.

“I will try not to get too emotional,” she said. “I look forward to seeing the committee work together and seeing everyone come to enjoy the festival.”