More than 20,000 people came to Huber Park Aug. 4-6 to honor the tomato with musical acts, food, carnival rides and more.
Reynoldsburg Mayor Joe Begeny said this year’s Tomato Festival crowd didn’t disappoint, despite some rain here and there.
“I know it is more so than we had last year, but beyond what the rankings were when the city didn’t have control of it, I’m not certain,” he said. “A lot of people said this reminded them of when the festival was held in Civic Park.”
The first Tomato Festival was held in 1965 to honor the city’s claim to fame as the birthplace of a sweeter, edible tomato, created by resident Alexander W. Livingston in 1870.
Approximately 17,000 people attended last year’s festival, according to organizers.
The event was canceled in 2020 due to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.
The 2019 festival was the first managed by the city after a hiatus in 2018. Before then, it had been organized by Reynoldsburg Festivals Inc. for several years.
Under the city’s guidance, the Tomato Festival brought back carnival rides, added national music acts and expanded entertainment to include more tomato-themed activities.
“We had a great Tomato Wars, which was a fun thing,” Begeny said. “We also did some new stuff this year. We brought in a spaghetti-eating contest, which was phenomenal. It was mostly phenomenal because I could stand on the sidelines and watch and not participate.”
The Tomato Wars were Aug. 5 on Davidson Drive, where teams of five, equipped with safety goggles and armed with tomatoes, participated in a dodgeball-style competition.
Proceeds from the $25 team registration fees were donated to the HEART Food Pantry.
This year’s main stage entertainment included North to Nashville on Aug. 4, Morris Day on Aug. 5 and the Plain White T’s on Aug. 6.
“Morris Day was beyond words,” Begeny said. “It was the largest crowd I’ve seen at a Tomato Festival. And those who’ve been going to festivals said it was the largest crowd that they’d ever seen. The Plain White T’s almost matched them.”
More than 8,000 people watched Morris Day, according to Jennifer Clemmons, the city’s special events and media coordinator.
This year’s festival also was moved to the first weekend in August to help accommodate scheduling for carnival rides, Begeny said.
“I think that had an immediate impact on attendance,” he said. “You had kids there the entire time. It was a lot of fun. We had a lot of activities for young kids in our Kids Zone but for those who were early teens, we had fun games to play and rides to ride.”
The festival also offered a “sensory time” on Friday for families “with members (both children and adults) with sensory processing disorders and adult spectrum disorders,” Clemmons said.
The city already is planning for next year’s event.
A source: https://www.dispatch.com