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Tomato Festival Offers Pageant, Contests And “TomatOlympics”

by Bill Turner

It’s the lycopersicon esculentum, the infamous fruit eaten as a vegetable and the third part of the ever-popular BLT sandwich. The notorious red tomato.

This Saturday, the tomato will be the center of attention at the fourth annual Eastmont Tomato Festival in Shawsville. And, for tomato lovers, this should prove to be a family-oriented event that you’ll not want to miss.

With contests, a tomato pageant, music, celebrities and even the TomatOlympics for sports-minded festival goers, the organizers assure me it will be a fun-filled day packed with laughter. Add to that, the element of being somewhat off-the-wall.

My initial invitation to attend was heaped with some intriguing facts about the festival that in itself, piqued my interest to participate. Consider the following and judge for yourself.

The Tomato Pageant will consist of four catagories- Cherry Tomato Baby, for ages 0-3; Tomato Princess (4-39); Tomato Prince (4-39); and the big prize-Heirloom Tomato Queen (age 40+). Due to the fame shouldered by the winner, the organizers told me the 2010 Queen, Terry Ellen Carter, has adopted the stage name of Juliet Roma.

My invitation came from committee member Sandy Birkenmaier. Sadly, Sandy informed me she will miss this year’s event; she’s allergic to tomatoes. But, my daylong contact will be her husband, Ralph. I’m assured I’ll easily be able to locate Ralph among the throng -he’ll be wearing a tomato crate.

Bob Pilkington, festival MC, head of the TomatOlympics and architect for Balzer and Assc., also contacted me last week. Bob, appropriately, is also known as Tomato Target Man. One of the five events in the olympics has Bob wearing a target while kids throw tomatoes at him, with points awarded for accuracy. He admits this event usually ends in disarray. Other competitions will include a tomato-toting obstacle course and a tomato eating contest he likins to the Nathan’s hot-dog eating championship at Coney Island.

For those considering entering, Pilkington notes the Olympic Theme will be played and medals (gold, silver, bronze in each category) will be presented on the podium (no plastic-real metal, Bob points out).

Contests for best-tasting, biggest and funniest-looking tomato will take place. And, expect tomato recipes galore from the culinary talented EastMont crowd.

The fun starts at 10:00 am and continues through 3:00 pm at the Meadowbrook Center in Shawsville. From Salem, take Rt. 11/460 to downtown Shawsville. Look for the only intersection with turn lanes-the Meadowbrook Center is diagonally across from Dollar General.

I’ll be there dressed to impress-solid red head-to-toe. The only proper garb for a full-fledged tomato festival. Watch for pictures in next week’s edition.

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