Daily Progress, Jacksonville, TX

Local News

April 22, 2013

BUSINESS CONFIDENTIAL:

JACKSONVILLE — We at the Jacksonville Daily Progress are putting out another serious call for information regarding former Tomato Festival Queens.

Relatives, spouses, children, grandchildren — everyone is being asked to help us out. We hope to identify, then interview those who are still alive and get biographical information on those who are not.

Some readers have been very helpful in identifying some of them — and we thank them very much for that — but we need to learn more.

We need names, numbers and information regarding as many as possible of these champions who came after Billye Sue Hackney of 1934 and Violette Slaton of 1935.

The information grows more and more important as the 29th-annual Tomato Fest, which begins June 8, nears.

Officials are looking to revive the queen position this year — a position that at one point in time (1937)  attracted applicants from as many as  55 cities. Tomato Fest chairman Robin Butt has gone as far as to say he hopes it can serve as an eventual lead-in to the Miss Texas Contest.

The revived pageant is tentatively slated to take place the first Saturday in August of this year. So in addition to intrepid reporters, organizers of this revived event are in the process of trying to locate former queens. (Those who are still alive and might wish to participate.)

Jacksonville held its first Tomato Festival in 1934, and it quickly became one of the biggest and best-known celebrations in all of East Texas. Festivities would often last for as long as a week, and included parades, pageants, music and other entertainment.

And of that big event, the biggest development at each year’s festival was the coronation of the  beautiful, beautiful, Tomato Queen.

That version of Tomato Festival lasted until 1941 when the outbreak of World War II called a significant portion of Cherokee County's men away to war. But it was revived by the Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce in 1984.

Time to revive the queen — like Sleeping Beauty waiting for a kiss from Prince Charming.

Do you know someone who has been a Tomato Queen? You can contact the Jacksonville Daily Progress at btinsley@jacksonville-progress.com.

Meanwhile, for all updates and applications please go to the Tomato Fest page on the Chamber's website www.jacksonvilletexas.com.

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