Tomato-lovers to unite in Grainger County for annual festival

RUTLEDGE (WATE) – If you love tomatoes, good music or just having a good time, the Grainger County Tomato Festival has something for you.

“If we didn’t have the tomatoes, what would we be? We would not be a festival! We have to have Grainger County tomatoes,” said organizer Kathie Self.

Organizers are gearing up for the 24th annual Grainger County Tomato Festival. It kicks off the last weekend of this month and keeps everyone asking: “What makes those tomatoes so good?”

“I’ll stake a Grainger tomato against any tomato that they say is best all around. I know ours is,” said Self. “My opinion is it’s the dirt. It’s the dirt they’re grown in. This dirt is unique for this area.”

Farmers say it is, in fact, something about the soil.

“You can go in the lower end of Grainger County and they won’t taste as good as these do,” said Brandon Williams at Hubert Williams Farm.

It also takes the perfect weather concoction to grow the best tomatoes.

“Mid-80s, dry, you can control it a lot better,” Williams said.

Related: Tomato facts: Why is the plant so popular?

Last year they saw a lot more rain causing more disease on the plants. This year it has been hot, but it has been drier, meaning the plants are in better shape.

“Surprisingly they look real good. We had less disease and stuff. Everything looks real good this year,” Williams said.

That means there will be plenty of the tasty tomatoes to go around at this year’s festival.

“We want to make it better for people to be able to get around, for people to be able to see more and just display Grainger County in the best light we can,” said Self.

The festival began in 1992 to promote the famous tomato crop in Grainger County, featuring the world-famous Tomato Wars. The free event also features a number of concerts, including a free performance by the Kentucky Head Hunters. The festival runs from July 28-31.

Schedule of events:

Thursday July 28, 2016 :
Festival Street Dance 6:30 p.m. on the grounds at Rutledge Middle School, MC’ed by Murlin’s Music World

Friday July 29, 2016:
Dealer setup – 8 a.m.
Festival open – Noon until 8 p.m.
Art show entries due by 4 p.m. – Rutledge Elementary (Old Middle School)
“Grainger County Opry” – 6:30 p.m. – Free concert at middle school

Saturday July 30, 2016:
Mater Madness 5K Run – 7:30 a.m.
Tomato Festival – 9 a.m. until 7 p.m.
Art & Authors Show – 9 a.m. through 7 p.m. – Elementary School
Children’s activities 9 a.m. through 5 p.m.
The Famous Tomato Wars – 10 a.m. – behind Vo-Tech Building
Live Music – 9 a.m. through 6 p.m. Stage 1
Gospel Music – 10 a.m. through 5 p.m. Stage 2
Dancing – Stage 3

Sunday July 31, 2016:
Old Time Country Church Service – 10:00 a.m. – Main Stage
Art & Authors Show – Middle School – Noon through 5 p.m.
Live Music – 11 a.m. through 5 p.m. Stage 1
Gospel Music – Noon through 5 p.m. Stage 2
Dancing – 1-3 p.m. Stage 3
The Famous Tomato Wars – 2 p.m. – Behind Vo-Tech Building
Festival Beauty Pageant Registration at 2 p.m., pageant at 3 p.m.
Children’s activities – Noon through 5 p.m.

For more information on the festival, visit the Grainger County Tomato Festival’s website.

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