Jacksonville Daily Progress
Antique cars, tractors, and motorcycles lined Austin Street. Tournaments were in full swing. Vendors sold their wares which included everything from salsa mix to purses to turtles. Crowds swarmed downtown Jacksonville in search of the city’s most famous fruit: tomatoes.
Saturday marked the 29th-annual Tomato Fest which takes place on the second Saturday in June each year. The event brought people from all corners of the country with guests traveling all the way from Kansas and Michigan. But grower S.D Miles didn’t have to travel far.
“I was raised here and have been growing tomatoes since I was 12 years old,” Miles said.
Miles helps Kadlecek Farms grow their tomatoes which were on full display at Tomato Fest. He’s had so much experience growing them that tomatoes are almost like family.
“These are my grandsons,” Miles said with a grin. “They are grown out here behind the New Masons Church on the Loop. This is our eighth year. They sell in Tyler, Shreveport, and sometimes they get shipped out all over the country.”
Like many growers, Miles has his own secret to getting the fruit to grow so big but said anyone can grow tomatoes like him.
“I sing to them,” Miles said. “You just need to pay attention to them and what they need. You need to fertilize it, water it, and take care of them.”
Down the street from the tomato venders was the truck pull challenge, an event new to Tomato Fest. Jacksonville Iron Works Gym put on the event to raise money for the Crisis Center of Anderson and Cherokee Counties.
“We were trying to find a way to expand awareness of our gym and we decided to do a strong man event,” gym co-owner Lisa Foreman said. “We decided to do a strong man event so Casey Scruggs, the owner of the deuce-and-a-half, said we could pull his truck. It weighs about 14,000 pounds. There are two prizes and the net proceeds are going to benefit the Crisis Center.”
Over the course of the day, many people competed to have the fastest time with some pulling the truck the required distance in less than 19 seconds. Foreman said the most rewarding thing for her was watching the crowd’s reactions.
“You always wonder when you do something like this, is anybody going to even try it, so when the first people started trickling in, it made me feel good,” Foreman said. “We thought we were going to sit out here all day and nobody is going to try. It’s fun to watch people do it, especially people that I don’t know.”
Further on down Austin Street, all sorts of motorcycles, tractors, and antique cars lined the road including “Charlie’s Toy,” an orange 1934 Ford Coupe owned by Charlie Glenn.
The Reklaw native has been coming to Tomato Fest for years and has entered the car show many times before.
“I had Corvettes, 28's, 29 Model A Street Rods. I’ve had 31 Model A's, G2O's, but this is my last one,” Glenn said. “I’m 74 years old and I just don’t think I can make another one.”
His car has a new motor, new transmission, cruise control, air conditioning, power brakes and power steering. But Glenn’s coupe got its share of attention because of another eye-catching factor.
“I go to car shows and there aren’t any orange cars. You can bet people come over to look at it just because it’s orange,” Glenn said. “I want to win trophies and I do because my car is orange.”
Despite it being his last Tomato Fest, Glenn said there are certain things he has loved every minute of it.
“I always come to Tomato Fest. I come out here and just enjoy the people,” Glenn said. “I enjoy them and have fun.”
With winners picked for all of the competitions and music from the last musicians dying down, people left Jacksonville after another successful year at Tomato Fest already excited about next year.