UNICO holds annual tomato contest

By Mark Reynolds
Posted 8/29/23


Last Sunday was not only the most perfect weather day of the year, it was also the day UNICO held their annual Tomato Contest at the Benmarl Winery in Marlboro. This is the 17th annual …

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UNICO holds annual tomato contest

Last Sunday was not only the most perfect weather day of the year, it was also the day UNICO held their annual Tomato Contest at the Benmarl Winery in Marlboro. This is the 17th annual tomato contest.
Rich Cavazza said even though he is the President of the Marlboro chapter of UNICO, “everybody in this club is great and Joel [Truncali] really runs this tomato event.”
Truncali said they start selling the tomato plants in May at Frank’s Deli in Marlboro.
“They are each $20 and the money from this event goes to the Achievement Awards for seniors who have overcome a hardship and graduated high school,” he said.   
UNICO’s National President Ralph Contini said, “I’m so proud to see the work that is being done by this local chapter. The local chapters are what make UNICO strong and having events such as this, which is very community-based, brings out members and non-members of UNICO and creates a great atmosphere for unity and a great atmosphere for the [Italian] heritage.”
Contini said every Italian, “wants to raise a tomato and to have this going on really brings us back to some of the roots that some of us have grown up with, and I congratulate the Marlboro chapter for bringing the community together for this great event today.”
Contini was installed in July as the National President at UNICO’s 100th annual convention in Florida.
“I’m privileged to have the opportunity to meet the grass roots of UNICO, and anything that is successful it’s because of the grass roots. The chapters are the strength of what UNICO is all about, and I can see the passion of what these guys bring to their community.”   
Contini said there are nearly 100 UNICO chapters in 12 states across the country.
Victor Spaccarelli, who is the owner of Benmarl Vineyards and Winery, invites UNICO to hold their tomato contest every year at his place.
“It gives me great pleasure, and it’s nice to give something back to the community besides giving back to a great organization. We do a lot for a lot of good people and it’s very rewarding,” he said. “I might not have the biggest tomato but I got a big heart,” he said.
Past UNICO National President Joseph Agresti started coming to the Marlboro event in 2002, saying “they are just the greatest bunch of guys who go over and above for what UNICO stands for.”
Agresti always makes a special trip to Marlboro in May to buy his tomato plants, but, “one year I had a huge tomato that got dropped in the car and I’ve never submitted a tomato in the contest. This year there was just so much rain in New Jersey that it was all mushy and in terrible shape.”
Past Marlboro UNICO chapter President Jerry Biviano said everyone knows that the profits from this and other events go right back into the community. He noted that besides contributing to scholarships for the graduating seniors, they will be contributing toward an 8th grade scholarship this year to those who have taken high school/college level courses.
“They send their essays in and whatever accomplishments that they have done in their lifetime; we like to recognize to show them that with good effort and good ways of going, there’s always hope at the end of the line,” he said.
Other winners: Vinny Cracolici won 2nd place in the senior division with a 758 gram tomato. In the adult division, Nick Cracolici came in 1st place at 807 grams, Tami DiDonato in 2nd place at 779 grams and Jason Boyoston at 675 grams.
In the Youth division, Raylyn Luvera came in 1st place at 942 grams and  Anthony Cracolici at 3rd Place at 654 grams.
Frank Manislki won in the Most Unusual category and thanks went out to Dave Williams for starting the tomato plants to get ready for selling them in May.