Celebrating everything tomato

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By Christine Bryant
Staff Writer

The contestants for the 2017 Reynoldsburg Tomato Queen pageant, from left to right, are: Mia White, Kaelyn Bowers, Mary Cate Watkins, Miranda Bickert, Isis Evans, Kieran Huertas, Hannah Thompson. Seated are current (2016-17) First Attendant Reagan Duchesne and current (2016-17) Queen Marrisa Galant. (Not shown: Julia Bazley and Melissa Herrick.) Personal interviews for this year’s contestants will be completed on Aug. 13 at the Reynoldsburg Senior Center on Davidson Drive after the Queen’s luncheon and the on-stage part of the contest is Aug. 18 at Huber Park on the main stage immediately following the opening ceremonies. The queen and first attendant represent the Reynoldsburg Tomato Festival at local civic events and attend approximately 16 to 18 parades in and around Central Ohio.

Reynoldsburg’s annual Tomato Festival kicks off for the 52nd time this month, promising musical performances, contests, kids activities and lots of food to sample.

This year’s event will take place from 4 to 10 p.m. Aug. 18 and 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Aug. 19 at Huber Park off Davidson Drive.

Crowd favorites once again will return to the annual festival that recognizes Reynoldsburg as the birthplace of the commercial tomato, including band performances and a beer garden both nights, a classic car show, bingo, arts and crafts, the Shriner Clowns, vendors and fair food.
Registration for the car show begins at 1 p.m. Aug. 19, with judging promptly at 5 p.m. An awards ceremony will take place at 6:30 p.m.

Mary Hudson, director of the Reynoldsburg Visitors Bureau and president of Reynoldsburg Festivals Inc., said visitors will have the opportunity to try a medley of tomato-based products, from classic options like fried green tomatoes and tomato juice, to more unique choices like tomato fudge, popcorn and bread.

For those who like tomato sauce, this festival’s pizza taste off will include at least six local companies vying for the title of favorite pizza. Festival goers are invited to purchase a ticket to the taste off, scheduled for 4 p.m. Aug. 19, which includes a sample from each of the participating pizza businesses and a drink. At the end of sampling, attendees are invited to vote for their favorite. The pizza taste off tickets are $5.

“It should be a good competition,” Hudson said.

The festival also will host a spaghetti eating contest at 2:30 p.m. Aug. 19. Residents and visitors are invited to sign up and show off their spaghetti-eating skills. Sign-up forms are available online at reynoldsburgtomatofestival.org, and will be available the day of the event as well, Hudson said.

New this year, the Tomato Festival queen contest will be held at 6 p.m. Aug. 18. Up until this year, the contest has been held on the Saturday of the event, but Hudson said organizers decided to change the schedule so the queen can preside over the entire weekend.

Mike Motz, who oversees the queen contest, said during their reign, the queen and first attendant will represent the Tomato Festival at local civic events and at about 16 to 18 parades in and around central Ohio.

This year’s Tomato Festival Little Princess Contest will be held at 11 a.m., Aug. 19.

Children’s games, inflatables and rides will be on hand, as well as a LEGO play area that is dedicated to Braxton Long, a Reynoldsburg resident who recently died from Glioblastoma, an aggressive form of cancer that begins in the brain. Long spent the past few years collecting LEGO toys and donating them to patients at Nationwide Children’s Hospital.

Local businesses and arts and crafts exhibitors will fill large tents, giving visitors the opportunity to learn more about the community and do a little shopping.

Although visitors of all ages are welcome, Hudson said no pets will be allowed on the grounds during the festival.

She said volunteers also are needed for set up the Wednesday and Thursday before the event, and for tear down Saturday night and Sunday.

“We are ready to go, we just need people to come and enjoy,” Hudson said.

Schedule of events
Friday, Aug. 18
4 p.m. Festival grounds open.
4 p.m. Beer garden opens (ID required).
5 p.m. Opening ceremonies: Presentation of Colors by VFW Post 9473; National Anthem by Ashley Cochran; Introduction of Mayor Brad McCloud; Introduction of Presenting Sponsor Heartland Bank; Tomato contest award winners; Performance by Reynoldsburg High School Marching Band.
6 p.m. Chamber Night in the Beer Garden.
6 p.m. Tomato Festival Queen Contest.
7 p.m. Bingo in the Senior Center.
7 p.m. Ambush performs.
8:30 p.m. The Jack performs.
10 p.m. Festival grounds close.

Saturday, Aug. 19
10 a.m. Grounds open.
10 a.m. Performance by J.A.Z. Dance & More.
11 a.m. Tomato Festival LIttle Princess contest.
11 a.m. Bingo in the Senior Center.
12-2 p.m. Shriner Clowns on grounds.
2:30 p.m. Spaghetti eating contest.
3 p.m. Truro Township Fire Department demonstration.
4 p.m. Pizza taste off.
4 p.m. Beer garden opens (ID required).
5 p.m. Bingo in Senior Center.
5 p.m. Classic car show.
5 p.m. VCC Blues band.
6:30 p.m. Perfect Timing performs.
8 p.m. McGuffey Lane performs.
10 p.m. Festival grounds close.

Tomato Festival veteran McGuffey Lane will return to this year’s celebration, headlining Saturday night’s lineup.

This year’s event will take place from 4 to 10 p.m. Aug. 18 and 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Aug. 19 at Huber Park off Davidson Drive, and will include performances both nights.

On Aug. 18, Ambush will perform at 7 p.m., followed by The Jack at 8:30 p.m.

Mary Hudson, director of the Reynoldsburg Visitors Bureau and one of the festival’s organizers, said organizers decided to keep Friday night’s schedule to two bands since they moved the Tomato Festival queen contest from Saturday to Friday’s lineup.

Kicking off Saturday’s entertainment is the VCC Blues Band at 5 p.m., followed by Perfect Timing at 6:30 p.m. and McGuffey Lane at 8 p.m.

Perfect Timing is known for its harmonies and performs fan favorites, from Journey to the Doobie Brothers, Fleetwood Mac and the Eagles.

McGuffey Lane is a country/rock band based in Columbus. The band formed in 1972, and in 2009, opened for Lynyrd Skynyrd at The LC in Columbus.

McGuffey Lane singer John Schwab said the band will play songs from all of its CDs, including the newest album, “Legend of the Red Eye.”

The Tomato Festival has long been one of the band’s favorite places to perform.

“It’s always a responsive, fun crowd and it’s obvious they are there to hear our music,” Schwab said.

“Legend of the Red Eye” is the band’s 11th album.

Also on Aug. 19, earlier in the day at 10 a.m., J.A.Z. Dance & More will perform, followed by the Tomato Festival Little Princess Contest at 11 a.m.

The festival’s beer garden will open both days at 4 p.m. Hudson said regardless of age, an identification will be required to enter the beer garden.

Festival grounds close both nights at 10 p.m.

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