By Ralphine Major
It is a bright-red fruit that has drawn thousands to Grainger County, Tennessee, for the past 24 years! The Grainger County tomato has a very unique and wonderful taste. Absolutely delicious!! A pleasant drive up Emory Road showcased the beautiful East Tennessee mountains in the distance, often draped in an early morning fog. There were beautiful farms all along Emory Road as well as Rutledge Pike on the drive to the festival. For three days, the grounds of the Rutledge Elementary and Middle Schools were covered with huge, white tents for vendors. There were rows of John Deere tractors, wooden furniture, and antique tractors; there were beauty pageants and professional face painting; and there was lots of music and plenty of food, including funnel cakes, homemade ice cream, and even some baskets of peaches. Of course, there were the famous tomato wars!
The sporadic downpours of rain did not seem to dampen the spirits of anyone at the festival. In addition to the locals, we had the joy of visiting with people from Wartburg to West Virginia at our authors’ table. We met vacationers from Kentucky, South Carolina, and Pennsylvania, as well as people from neighboring counties. Others who were originally from New York and Florida told us they now call East Tennessee home.
Wendy and Amy Leedy, both of whom are very accomplished artists, helped to coordinate the area where we were, which included authors, artists, woodcarvers, tatting, genealogy research, wire-wrapped jewelry, and crafts. We were highly impressed with their efforts and the entire, well-organized event! Even an Old Time Country Church Service was scheduled under a tent on Sunday morning.
What a wonderful way to spend time with family, enjoy good food, see a part of East Tennessee’s beautiful landscape, and get a taste of those flavorful tomatoes! Mark your calendar for the festival’s 25th anniversary in 2017! It should be great!!