Daily Progress, Jacksonville, TX

June 14, 2014

Tomatoes: Here's to you!

Annual Tomato Fest steeped in tradition

April Barbe
Jacksonville Daily Progress

JACKSONVILLE — Although this is the 30th Annual Tomato Fest, the celebration of the popular Jacksonville fruit actually began in 1934.

It was a major event in East Texas with Tomato Queens named each year from 1934 to 1941. Events simmered down during and after World War II, according to Deborah Burkett of the Cherokee County Historical Commission.

“ 'King Tomato’ as it was called, has meant so much to Cherokee County and East Texas,” Burkett said. “Not only financially, but socially, as well.”

In 1984, the tomato-colored carpet was once again rolled out in Jacksonville, and this year folks are celebrating 30 years of festival fun and games.

“The Tomato Festival was establish during the 1930s and it took the edge off the Great Depression, because it gave citizens an opportunity to celebrate. The same is true today – Jacksonville’s Annual Tomato Fest is definitely a time to celebrate,” Burkett said.

Recently, while looking through old photos and creating a scrapbook, Carolyn Ann Pavletich came across some photos from the 1936 Tomato Festival.

Her mother, Frances Carolyn Wood Pavletich, was named the 1936 Tomato Queen.

“It was important to me to preserve these memories for my children, grandchildren and future generations of my family,” Carolyn said.

She and her sister, Mary Pavletich Dublin, decided to contact the Cherokee County Historical Commission and share some of what they had found.

Miss Frances Carolyn Wood was a Jacksonville native who graduated from Jacksonville High School and Lon Morris College. Married to Philip Pavletich, she was devoted to her church, belonged to many civic clubs in Jacksonville and was a member of the Daughters of the American Revolution.

She was crowned as the third Tomato Queen, leading her closest rival by 140,000 votes. That rival was Miss Ruby Lee Beall.

Miss Woods was crowned by Col. Ernest O. Thompson, Chairman of the Texas Railroad Commission.

It was reported that 15,000 plus attended the four-day “Tomato Show.”

Burkett said according to her research, in the ’30s and ’40s, the Tomato Festival was referred to as the International Tomato Festival, the National Tomato Festival and The Tomato Show.

Whatever the name, it was all about one thing: Jacksonville tomatoes.