Daily Progress, Jacksonville, TX

April 22, 2013


Ben Tinsley
Jacksonville Daily Progress

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.


That's right! - The Jacksonville Farmers Market will open May 7 in Jacksonville at Sadler's Restaurant, 101 S. Bonner, formerly the historic Jacksonville Jail.


The Annual TOPS In Texas Rodeo, now in its 51st year, takes place May 15 through May 18.

Byron Underwood, president of the rodeo association has said he is optimistic that the rodeo this year can attract the thousands it always has. This is, of course, in the wake of the recent recovery of the rodeo grounds by the city from bankrupt Lon Morris College.

The city deeded the rodeo grounds to Lon Morris College with specific considerations in April 2009.

Doubt was cast about the future of the rodeo after officials with auctioneer company Ameribid accidentally sold the grounds and related city property to a high bidder during a January auction, then passed the problem on to federal bankruptcy judge rather than correct the mistake themselves.

A federal judge ultimately returned the property to the city.

But, thanks to the work of Jacksonville city officials Mo Raissi and Joe Angle, that is in the past. All the necessary contracts have been signed, and the rodeo is full speed ahead, Underwood said.

“It's all like it was,” Underwood said recently. “It's good.”


The three candidates in this year's mayoral race — incumbent Kenneth Melvin and challengers, Rob Gowin and William Igbokwe will mix it up and work it out at a debate held at the Norman Activity Center on April 22.

The 7 p.m. debate will be moderated by Jacksonville Daily Progress Editor Amy Brocato Pearson.

In addition to questions solicited from readers, each candidate is being asked to pen a question they wish asked of their opponents — subject, of course, to verification and vetting by Jacksonville Daily Progress reporters.

This debate will be filmed by both local TV media and private parties. Snippets, excerpts and outtakes are expected to be circulated over Facebook and the Internet as well as on television.

Please join us. It will definitely be time well spent.

Ben Tinsley, a Jacksonville Daily Progress reporter with over 25 years in the journalism industry, writes Business Confidential, a column designed to help promote and help spotlight the diverse and growing business community of Cherokee County.