Despite being a drought year, tomatoes are ripening in gardens across the county. Staff at Delta County Libraries are once again aiming to harness some of the excitement about homegrown tomatoes with the fifth annual Tomato Fest in Hotchkiss.
"Tomato Fest is a great opportunity to bring the community together in celebration of the fall harvest, with a particular focus on delicious tomatoes!" explains Sarah Smith, Hotchkiss Library staff member.
The festival takes place at the Creamery Arts Center and features tomato taste testing, a tomato "best of" contest, a tomato-inspired fashion show, and a tomato haiku reading. The taste tasting is a people's choice award and a panel of judges decides the "best of" awards. Growers of the tastiest, smallest, biggest, prettiest, ugliest, and best-dressed tomatoes receive awards during the festival.
"We also announce the winners of our tomato haiku contest and invite them to read their haiku at the festival," says Smith. "It has become a highlight of the day."
For several years now, the festival has included a tomato-inspired fashion show sponsored by The Rose, a thrift store in Hotchkiss. Former owner of The Rose, Robbie Winne, was a key organizer of the fashion show in previous years.
"I am thrilled that the new owner, Amber Yates, is willing to continue with the fashion show this year," says Winne. "And I am excited to be invited back again as the announcer for the show."
"The Rose is located across the street from the Creamery and is a great staging area for the fashion show," Smith explains.
The fashion show is in two rounds, one at 12:30 p.m. and one at 1:30 p.m.
For the first time this year, Pat's Bar & Grill, also across the street from the Creamery Arts Center, is offering tomato-centric specials. "There really is something for everyone at this festival," says Smith.
The Tomato Fest is on Saturday, Sept. 15, from noon to 2 p.m. alongside the regular Saturday farmers' market.