Support crops up to save Reynoldsburg Tomato Festival

Messenger photo by Lori Smith
Candidates vying to be the 2007 Reynoldsburg Tomato Festival queen include (from left) Kristen Yarger, Jillian Curtis, Jenelle Krumlauf, Jessica Reese,  Mahagany Saxton, Alexandra Briski,  Raven Woodie, and Briana Simmons. Candidates not pictured are Alexandra Fulton,  Marquisa Hicks, and Katelynn Jones. The 42nd annual festival will take place Sept. 5-9 at Civic Park. The Queen’s Pageant will be held Sept. 9 at 4 p.m.

Every spring, gardeners plant their seeds and hope conditions will bring a good crop by fall.

It’s the same for the organizers of the Reynoldsburg Tomato Festival, which will take place Sept. 5-9 at Civic Park.

In May, festival president Robert Whightsel and trustee Nancy Mergel were digging for donations and warning that the 42-year tradition, that celebrates the city as the birthplace of the commercial tomato,  could wither.

Since then, the community has come through with the support the festival needed, Whightsel is happy to announce.

"We’re still getting the message out, and we’re still receiving donations," Whightsel said.

The only major cancellation has been the parade, which has been cut after the city of Reynoldsburg was unable to contribute the police overtime and other expenditures for the event.

The festival will run the full five days, with a full schedule of games, rides, entertainment, food and family activities, culminating with the queen’s pageant.

It all begins with the tomato. On Sept. 3, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Sept. 4, 8 a.m. to noon, fresh tomatoes and products will be accepted at the festival grounds for judging. The contests, in numerous categories, are open to all Ohio residents, and there are junior categories, as well.

The festival grounds open Sept. 5 at 5 p.m., with opening ceremonies starting at 6. The activities at the main stage include the crowning of the 2007 Senior King and Queen, the introduction of the 2006 Tomato Festival queen and court, and the presentation of this year’s crop of hopefuls.

The winners of the tallest tomato plant and grand champion tomato contests will also be announced.

The Little Princess contest, open to girls in second grade living in the Reynoldsburg school district, will take place at 7 p.m., followed by a performance of the Vineyard Church Band at 7:30.

It is also family night, sponsored by radio 104.9, the River, one of the festival’s new sponsors. Activities will include children’s games and face-painting.

The festival will have a petting zoo this year, with a miniature horse, llamas, a pot-bellied pig, a giant rabbit and other critters.

Thrill seekers can pay one price to enjoy rides at the festival from 6-10 p.m. Sept. 5 and 6, and from noon to 4 p.m. Sept. 8.

The festival grounds open at 4 p.m. Sept. 6, with the Pizza Taste-Off from 6-8 p.m., where area pizzerias find out which pie people prefer.

The local band Soup Bone will play classic rock beginning at 7:30 p.m.

The band plays everything from AC/DC to Led Zeppelin, according to vocalist and drummer Greg Pratti. He is joined on stage by Evan Lynn on vocals, guitar and keyboards; Dave Brotemarkle on bass and vocals; and Walford Lehner on keyboards, guitar and vocals.

Stomachs looking for fried green tomatoes won’t be the only things growling Sept. 7, when the popular Mutt Masquerade and K-9 Cruise-In (no Cat-illatics, please) have tails wagging.

The event has evolved since Whightsel and Reynoldsburg veterinarian Joe Geer started it in 2002, growing from a Saturday morning event to an entire evening of canine-centered activities.

The festival organizers point out that, since the event has been moved to Friday, there will be no Civil War artillery firing to frighten Fido. The encampment will set up on the grounds starting at 5 p.m., but will hold its fire until the next day.

Registration for the Mutt Masquerade will begin at 4 p.m., with a parade of costumed companions coming down the midway at 6.

The K-9 Cruise-in will continue until 9 p.m., with pet supply vendors and rescue groups on the grounds. There will also be a Rescue Raffle of pet products and services, with proceeds benefiting rescue organizations.

Michael Rose, a mainstay of the Tomato Festival, will bring his Vegas-style act to the main stage at 7 p.m.

He will be followed by the high-octane sounds of the Gas Pump Jockeys, making a return appearance at the festival to rev up the audience with its mix of classic rock and roll and on-stage shenanigans.

Festival grounds open at 11 a.m. Sept. 8, and close at 11 p.m. In between, visitors can witness everything from a Civil War battle and Grand Ball, to a British Invasion, of the musical variety, and get a bird’s-eye view of the goings-on with a hot-air balloon ride.

As many as 150 historical re-enactors – from soldiers in butternut and blue to ladies in hoop skirts – are expected to be encamped on the grounds during the weekend, demonstrating the living conditions of soldiers during the War Between the States.

Things will heat up with battle re-enactments at 1 and 4:30 p.m. There will also be a night-time firing of artillery and a candlelight tour of the camp at 9:30.

The more gracious aspects of the era will be on display during the Ladies Tea and Fashion Show at 3, and the Grande Ball at 6 p.m.

Those who want to participate in the ball are encouraged to attend in period costumes, but even those in contemporary couture can learn the popular dance steps of the 1860s.

The encampment will remain open Sept. 9, with a mock battle at 2 p.m.

After the Blue and the Gray take the field, get ready to be taken captive by British Invasion, a band that re-creates in sights and sounds the heyday of the Beatles (from Mop Tops to Sgt. Pepper), Rolling Stones and other legends from England. They play Sept. 8 at 8:30 p.m., preceded by the Tomato Idol contest winner.

The grounds will re-open Sept. 9 at 11 a.m. and the festival will get in gear with a car and motorcycle cruise-in, sponsored by Boosters Classic Cruisers.

The group, new to the festival, has been holding events at Tumbleweeds restaurant on Broad Street and has a large following, Whightsel noted.

Registration is $7 and is open from 11 until 2 p.m., and the cruise-in will go until 3 with prizes and a 50/50 raffle.

Those who like a little Gray with their Scarlet-red tomatoes can huddle at the Buckeye Championship Sports Tour from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Stomp your feet at the Open Stage Country Jam from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Young women will vie for the opportunity to wear the crown and represent the community during the Queen’s Pageant, which begins at 4 p.m.

There is still a sponsorship opportunity to support the queen and court’s travel and to have a business’s name displayed at 25 other festivals throughout Ohio,Whightsel said.

The festival will close at 6 p.m. with the ceremonial disposal of an American flag.

Admission to the Tomato Festival is free, and parking is $7.

For information about the festival, visit or call TOMATO-1 (866-2861).

Schedule of events

Monday, Sept. 3

10 a.m.-6 p.m. Fresh Tomatoes & Products Accepted  

in Tomato Exhibit Tent


Tuesday, Sept. 4

8 a.m.-noon  Fresh Tomatoes & Products Accepted  

                       (Tomato Exhibit Tent)    

1 p.m.  Judging, closed to public.

Wednesday, Sept. 5

5 p.m. Festival opens with concessions, exhibits, rides and food

6-10 p.m. Pay One Price Ride Rates

6 p.m. 2005 Opening Ceremonies (Main Stage)

Color Guard, Reynoldsburg Post VFW

Reynoldsburg High School Band

Pledge of Allegiance

National Anthem

Crowning of the 2007 Senior King & Queen

Tallest Tomato Plant Contest Winner

Grand Champion Tomato Winner

Meet the 2006 Tomato Festival Queen &

2007 Tomato Festival Queen Candidates

7 p.m. Little Princess Pageant

7:30 p.m. Vineyard Church Band

10 p.m. Festival  Grounds Close

Soup Bone, a local band that plays classic rock from AC/DC to Led Zeppelin, will perform at the Tomato Festival  Sept. 6 at 7:30 p.m. Playing on its name, band members wear t-shirts that say "Every dog has its day" and have been known to throw plastic dog bones to the audience.

Thursday, Sept. 6

4 p.m.: Festival opens

6-10 p.m. Pay One Price Ride Rates

6-8 p.m. Pizza Taste-Off

7:30 p.m. Soup Bone

10 p.m. Festival Grounds Close

Friday, Sept. 7

3 p.m. Festival opens

4-6 p.m. Mutt Masquerade

4-9 p.m. K-9 Cruise-in

7 p.m. Michael Rose

8 p.m. Gas Pump Jockeys

11 p.m. Festival Grounds Close

Saturday, Sept. 8

11 a.m. Festival opens

11 a.m.-12:30 p.m. Senior Bingo

11 a.m.-10 p.m.  Civil War camp

Noon-4 p.m. Pay-One-Price for rides.

1 p.m. Re-enactors Battle

2 p.m. Ladies Tea & Fashion Show

4:30 p.m. Re-enactors Battle

6-7:30 p.m. Civil War Grande Ball

8 p.m. Idol Winner

8:30 p.m. British Invasion

British Invasion re-creates in sights and sounds the heyday of the Beatles (from Mop Tops to Sgt. Pepper), Rolling Stones and other legends from England. They play Sept. 8 at 8:30 p.m.

11 p.m. – Festival Closes

Sunday, Sept. 9

11 a.m. Festival grounds open

11 a.m.-3 p.m. – Car & Motorcycle Cruise-in

11 a.m. -6 p.m. Buckeye Championship Sports Tour

Noon -6 p.m. Civil War camp open

Noon-3 p.m. Open Stage Country Jam

4 p.m. Queen’s Pageant

6 p.m. Festival closes

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