By Christine Bryant
It’s back – and organizers say better than ever.
The Reynoldsburg Tomato Festival will take place from 4 to 10 p.m. Aug. 16 and 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Aug. 17 at Huber Park, 1520 Davidson Drive.
Once again this year, there is free admission and free parking, said Mary Hudson, director of the Reynoldsburg Visitors Bureau and one of the festival’s organizers.
The event will include food, games, entertainment and several businesses spotlighting their products.
“This year, we have lots of our vendors back,” she said. “In fact, we already have more now than we did last year.”
Although the festival opens at 4 p.m. Aug. 16, the official opening ceremonies will take place at 6 that evening.
The VFW Post 9473 will introduce colors, and the Reynoldsburg High School marching band and cheerleaders will perform.
“Our Senior King and Queen, Nancy and Malcolm Spangler, also will be introduced,” Hudson said.
The average American eats around 22 pounds of tomatoes a year, Hudson says, and the Tomato Festival has plenty of opportunities for visitors to meet that quota.
In addition to popular tomato staples like pizza, tomato juice and fried green tomatoes, the festival also will feature tomato ice cream from Cold Stone Creamery.
Bruise Brothers will kick off the festival’s entertainment with a performance at 7 p.m. Aug. 16, followed by Marble Park at 8 p.m.
“Marble Park won our Battle of the Bands competition last year,” Hudson said.
On Aug. 17, at 11 a.m., this year’s competition will take place. The festival is still taking applications, which are available on the festival’s website, to participate in the Tomato Jam, she said.
The winner of this year’s competition will play at 6 p.m. that evening, opening for local favorite McGuffey Lane, which takes to the stage at 8 p.m.
Games, inflatables and demonstrations by the Reynoldsburg Police Department and Truro Township Fire Department will attract kids of all ages.
“Truro Township will back with their jaws of life demonstration,” Hudson said. “They also will have a safety house and a squirt house.”
On the afternoon of Aug. 17, the Shrine Clowns will be on hand at noon, and the Columbus Zoo will show off some of its animals from 2 to 3 p.m.
“We just had a magician sign on for the event, so there’s a lot going on,” Hudson said. “We hope everyone will come out and enjoy nice family entertainment.”
Other points of interest
The Reynoldsburg Senior Center, located adjacent to Huber Park, will host Bingo from 7 to 8 p.m. Aug. 16 and 11 a.m. to noon and 5 to 6 p.m. Aug. 17.
This year’s Tomato Festival Queen contest will take place Aug. 17 from 2 to 3 p.m., and at 4 p.m. that day, there will be a pizza taste-off.
“We will have at least four or five pizza places, and people purchase a ticket and then put their ticket in the bowl of the pizza place they like best,” Hudson said.
Registration for a cruise-in takes place from 2 to 3 p.m. Aug. 17, and visitors can tour the classic cars up until the cruise-in awards are announced at 8:30 p.m.
Returning for the second year is the beer garden, which runs from 6 to 10 p.m. Aug. 16 and noon to 10 p.m. Aug. 17.
“It was successful last year,” Hudson said. “Where it is positioned, it’s in a fantastic place because people can sit there and enjoy the stage.”
For the first time this year, the festival will have a dunk tank, though there’s no word yet who will be at the mercy of those throwing the ball.
“It’s a jam packed two days,” Hudson said.