Jacksonville Mayor Randy Gorham, left, presents Tomato Fest committee co-chair Duane Weatherford with a proclamation Monday declaring the city “Tomatoville” for the week of Tomato Fest.

JACKSONVILLE — Jacksonville Mayor Randy Gorham has proclaimed the city “Tomatoville” as weeklong celebrations are underway leading up to Saturday’s Tomato Fest.

The festival, in its 37th year, was canceled last year because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Gorham said Monday that proclaiming the city Tomatoville is a great way to jumpstart a week filled with tomato-inspired events and emphasize the importance of the festival in the community.

“Jacksonville was once known back in the day as the tomato capital of the world, so our city celebrates this heritage every year with a festival known as Tomato Fest,” Gorham said. “There are activities all week leading up to the festival, so we think it is fun to ‘change’ the name of our city from Jacksonville to Tomatoville during this week. The proclamation builds community spirit and unity as we approach the actual festival on Saturday.”

The event, hosted by the Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce, will span from the Tomato Bowl to South Bolton Street, where more than 200 vendors are set to line the center of Commerce Street.

The Tomato Fest, which is scheduled 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, will include soccer and tennis tournaments, a kids zone, robotics show and contest, health screenings, motorcycle show, farmers market, live music and more.

Several tomato-themed contests are set, including the local celebrity tomato eating contest (won by Cherokee County Judge Chris Davis in 2019), kids tomato eating contest, tomato peeling contest and tomato packing contest. Local farmers will bring their biggest, juiciest and best-tasting tomatoes for the best home grown tomato contest.

The contests are set to kick off at 11 a.m. Saturday and continue throughout the day.

Following the festival, Chili’s will host the annual street dance in its parking lot featuring the Brian Chance Band and Kimberly Dunn and Red Dirt Ritas from 7 to 11 p.m.

Gorham said the festival is part of the city’s history and a great way to show Jacksonville pride.

“Tomato Fest has been going on for years. It’s something that we do on an annual basis to celebrate our heritage. It also brings lots of people from outside our community to see and experience our great City of Jacksonville and the people that make up our town,” said Gorham.

For information and a schedule of events, call the Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce at (903) 586-2217 or visit jacksonvilletexas.com/tomato-fest .

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