Daily Progress, Jacksonville, TX


May 31, 2014

Who has the best tomatoes?

JACKSONVILLE — Who has the best of the best tomatoes?  Jacksonville, TX and Crystal Springs, MS are both known for their tomatoes and each town has an annual Tomato Fest.  The battle between the two communities will take place on June 10  in Shreveport, LA organized by KTBS TV Station.

The story of several farmers from Crystal Springs sharing their tomato farming experience, enticed Jacksonville farmers back in 1896. It’s true Crystal Springs got Jacksonville started growing tomatoes, BUT Jacksonville farmers over the years have perfected the tomato to bring thousands of visitors each year to get Jacksonville’s famous tastin’ tomatoes during the annual Tomato Fest.  Jacksonville’s Tomato Fest will be held Saturday, June 14th (2nd Saturday in June) and Crystal Springs, MS festival will take place Saturday, June 28 (last Saturday in June).

Back in 1896, two Cherokee County brothers-in-laws, employed in the Cotton Belt Railroad offices in Tyler, TX, made the acquaintance of an ex-Mississippian growing tomatoes on a small scale for express shipments.  Amazed by his season’s returns in 1896, the railroad men determined to sell the tomato idea to their home-folks.  A decade later in June 1907, Jacksonville alone shipped 42 cars in one day.  Two decades later, in 1917, Jacksonville was the center of a circle with 8 mile radius producing 90% of all tomatoes shipped from Texas.  In 1934, the 100th anniversary of the use of the tomato as food, the Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce secretary conceived the idea of making the US more tomato-minded through the observance of a National Tomato Week.  Jacksonville was recognized as the Tomato Capital and in 1941 more than 25,000 people viewed the Tomato Fest Pageantry.

On June 10th the Tomato Challenge between Jacksonville, TX and Crystal Springs, MS will be staged at KTBS TV station in Shreveport, LA.  The battle will be live during their morning program beginning at 11 am.  The categories are the 1) Largest Tomato, 2) Best Plate of 3 and 3) Best Tasting Tomato.  Each community will provide a judge and KTBS officials are securing the other judges.  Jacksonville’s official judge will be Cherokee County Chris Davis.    Mayor Sally Garland of Crystal Springs, MS is once again ready for the challenge on June 10.

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