Daily Progress, Jacksonville, TX


January 3, 2013

‘The Capital of East Texas’

Jacksonville Chamber declares tomato-centric city 2013 regional capital

JACKSONVILLE — Is Jacksonville moving into the big time? It would appear so, given that the Chamber of Commerce has just proclaimed it “the Capital of East Texas" as its 2013 theme.

As always, Jackson-ville's grand destiny has been made even grander by virtue of its relationship to the tomato. It is this edible, typically red, fruit after all, that inspired the recent creation of the concrete tomatoes the chamber sells for $200 apiece, officials said.

These 665-pound wonders have become so prevalent and popular in the area over the past two years, they might almost be considered one of the best public relations tools the city has had since the first Tomato Fest of June 1934.

In other words, concrete tomatoes are not just the talk of the town – they're the talk of the state, explained Peggy Renfro, president of the Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce.

"Last year for us was 'The Year Of The Tomatoes' and we sold over 220 of them," Renfro said. "They are at businesses and churches and residences. That's why other towns are starting to talk. We have had different people from different towns talk and talk and talk about our tomatoes. Someone coming through town from League City recently bought three of them."

(That is, incidentally, 1,995 pounds worth of concrete tomato to ferry all the way back to the Gulf Coast.)

The more canny municipal reps are starting to understand the importance of a popular symbol – the tomato and the alligator (from Anahuac), being two leading examples, officials said.

One particular area’s economic development corporation is considering adopting a goat as theirs, Renfro said.

Each year, months before the new chamber chair takes on his or her new responsibilities, chamber employees do research and compile as much information as they can to provide that person, Renfro said. They collect, for instance, previous slogans as part of this and submit it to the new chairmen.

Incoming chairman D. Brett Brewer said he came up with the new “Capital Of East Texas” theme after reviewing all available information and taking a good look at the rich history of Jacksonville – which encompasses 14.1 square miles with a population of  nearly 15,000 (14,637 as of 2011).

"This is the one that really hit me," Brewer said Wednesday.

Brewer said Jacksonville's well-documented development in both industry and business, which he believes makes the city a business capital, played into his decision.

He said Jacksonville's schools and higher education facilities such as Jacksonville College  make it an ideal education capital.

Brewer added the local lake and golf course make Jacksonville a fantastic relocation capital.

"And with the great events we have here such as Tomato Fest, we have a tourism capital," he said. "Altogether, you get the capital of East Texas. "

Speaking of capitals, East Texas has quite a bit of them.

There's Gladewater, the antique capital of East Texas; Marshall, deemed the East Texas pottery capital; Jefferson, the bed and breakfast capital; and Mineola, the birding capital.

Delve into the past a bit and there's Los Adaes, the mission town that became the Spanish capital of East Tejas. The aforementioned Anahuac is the alligator capital of all Texas, period.

And now we have a new contender: "Jacksonville:  the Capital of East Texas."

If Jacksonville is truly destined to live up to its new slogan, it will be in large part because of those tomatoes, officials say.

"The talk of tomatoes continues to roll around," Renfro said.


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