Action County: Tom Festa
When Tom Festa met Ted Williams during the Korean war, the Summit County local caught the legendary Red Sox slugger at an indecisive moment.”I was a Marine in supply and Ted came in saying he needed a pair of work boots,” Festa recalled. “I said, “What size, Ted?’ and he said, ’10 1/2 E.’ I went in the back and he said, ‘Make it a 10 1/2 double EE, no make it 10 1/2 E. ‘Ted,’ I said. ‘Here’s a pair of 10 1/2 Es, 10 1/2 double Es, a pair of 11 Fs and a pair of 11 double Fs. Just take ’em all.’ I never got his autograph, but it was great seeing him.”Ted Williams is just one of the many interesting people Festa has encountered over the course of his long and dynamic career.After serving for the New York Police Department for two full decades, Festa became a ski patroller for 34 years.
The 75-year-old Ruby Ranch resident started in New York at Hunter Mountain where he spent nine years, then went to Bell Air Ski Resort, (N.Y.) for six years, Windham, Mountain (N.Y.) for two years, Angel Fire, N.M. for six years and finally Keystone. “When you’re doing something a long time and you pull your car into the parking lot, you can feel it,” Festa said of his decision to move to Summit County. “I got this feeling that this is where I belonged and that was 22 years ago.”Festa, a native of the New York City area, first came to Keystone in 1986 as a certified ski patrol examiner.After retiring from his long-held post in 2002, the 35th person ever to receive lifetime certification from the National Ski Patrol System, became a tour guide for Keystone, an occupation that called on him to escort 585 people around the mountain this winter.”I love that job,” he said. “And I’m skiing the best I’ve ever skied in my life.”
The trained eye can find multiple references to Festa around Keystone. For example, there’s a sign on top of the Outback that points to Festa’s Cook Shack, a historic building located on his Ruby Ranch property and there’s a ski patrol trail called “Tom’s Tunnel.””I’ve got a lot of things named after me,” Festa said. “Some are good, some are bad.”You said your beat as an NYPD beat cop included the Apollo theater. Did you ever meet anybody famous?”I once had to give Redd Foxx a summons for his arrest – It was so funny. ‘You gotta be kidding me,’ he said. I told him, ‘You know what? Don’t worry about it Foxx, I’m not going to mess with you.’ Jaywalking was the offense. He didn’t pay his fine so it turned into a warrant for his arrest. … But he was never going to stay in one spot – he was going from the Apollo Theater to Chicago to San Francisco.”
What was it like being sent to Woodstock as a police officer?”We got paid 100 bucks a day. They made us take off our uniform and they took our pistols away from us, but I wasn’t going to give up the two-inch colt in my ankle holster just in case. … It was a peace movement – there were no fights. A couple of guys took their clothes off and ran across the hill, that’s about it.”
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