by Bill Turner
That’s the first two lines of the official Eastmont Tomato Festival song and it summed up the outlook of hundreds of people who gathered at last Saturdays Shawsville’s Meadowbrook Center for the fourth annual event that offered everything a tomato lover ever dreamed of – and then some.
Every kind of tomato imaginable was on display as well as tomato art, the TomatOlympic games and the requisite crowning of the 2011 Tomato Queen which highlighted an afternoon that took away everyone’s worries and more than once had the crowd roaring with approval and laughter.
The Tomato Queen pageant opened the day’s festivities with, unlike prior years, a sizeable group of tomato queen hopefuls vying for the crown. Last year’s queen, Terry Ellen Carter, was on hand to pass the crown which had come with much to shoulder. So much, in fact, Carter had adopted the stage name Juliet Roma to get her through her one year of fame and glory.
After all the tomato seeds had settled, Barbara Dillard was named the 2011 Queen, much to the audience’s approval. “It’s a great moment,” Dillard proclaimed afterward. “I prepared all year… just to get my nerve up.” Dillard was undecided if she was going to adopt an alias.
But, a late entry and their subsequent appearance on stage had the onlookers rolling in the aisles. The final contestant, entered under the name T. Audrey Tomatoe, drew some suspicions from the throng that were well-deserved, despite T. Audrey being adorned in a tasteful tomato-red gown. After an impromptu gathering of the judges, order was restored and Dave Angle (ah, T. Audrey) was unanimously crowned Tomato King of Queens.
The TomatOlympics clearly put a new twist into the sporting aspect of the tomato. Races, obstacle courses involving tomatoes and a tomato-eating contest that tested everyone’s gastronomical fortitude drew a large number of contestants. The games ended with Tomato-Target-Man, aka Robert Pilkington, being pelted with a sizeable assortment of the juicy fruits as he wore a shirt featuring a large bull’s eye.
The festival plays on the fact that there were numerous tomato farms and canneries in the Eastmont area during the first half of the 20th century. Proceeds of the festival benefit the Karen Cronin Legacy Fund which awards a grant towards an arts or gardening program. Cronin, a prior Tomato Queen herself, was a well-known volunteer in Montgomery County. Cronin died in February from complications from a scuba diving accident in Hawaii. Her husband, Mike Cronin, kept busy Saturday with the festival while Karen’s picture was displayed in the festival gazebo.