Our Opinion: Pizza festival could pan out well for NEPA

June 6th, 2016 7:51 am

Would it be a good idea to …

… start a pizza festival here, in hopes it can become a signature event for Northeastern Pennsylvania?

Area residents’ affinity for the Italian flatbread – in its many forms and flavors – already has spawned at least one blog (the NEPA Pizza Review), an in-development documentary film (“Tray”) and a boastful borough that claims to be the “Pizza Capital of the World” (oh, you saucy Old Forge).

A pizza festival might solidify this region as a cut above, potentially drawing visitors from afar to sample the dishes – and the deep dishes – we know and love.

Phoenix, London and Sacramento each started a pizza festival in the last year or so, according to information gleaned from the web. Sacramento’s event, called “Slice,” occurred in October, coinciding with National Pizza Month.

So as not to get lost in this mix, our region better get cooking. A regional pizza festival could be held over multiple days, bringing restaurateurs and food truck owners from Luzerne and Lackawanna counties to a central location for a contest. Celebrity judges could assess entries in each of several categories: red, white, thin crust, stuffed, crazy toppings, cheesiest, etc. The list of potential festival activities is limited only by the imagination. Dough toss, anyone?

From a tourist-promotion perspective, however, it might be of greater value to conduct a regional pizza festival in multiple communities, rather than at a single site. From Hazleton to Old Forge, participating cities and towns could spotlight their respective pizza eateries with special promotions and silly events. Festival goers, who would have access to online and paper maps, could move at their own pace from place to place, savoring the pizza and ambiance of each.

Promotional slogans for a pizza festival practically write themselves. “NEPA Rising: The Pizza Festival You Hunger for All Year” connotes both a positive image of the region and gets to the crux, or crust, of the matter.

Bethlehem has its Musikfest. Bloomsburg has its fair.

Does Northeastern Pennsylvania have the appetite for a massive pizza festival? Give us your feedback by sending a letter to the editor or posting comments to this editorial at timesleader.com.

Likewise, tell us your ideas for improving the community and making area residents’ lives better. Maybe we’ll spotlight your suggestion in a future editorial and ask readers, “Would it be a good idea to …”