By LOIS KINDLE
Thousands of South Shore residents are expected to attend the returning Ruskin Tomato & Heritage Festival May 6. The celebration of Ruskin’s agricultural history will take place from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. at E.G. Simmons Regional Park, 2401 19th Ave. NW, Ruskin.
“We invite everyone to come out for the rebirth of what was a very popular community event for more than 50 years,” said committee member Jennifer McCafferty. “With enough support, we plan to make it bigger and better every year.”
Sponsored by the Ruskin Community Development Foundation, the Ruskin Tomato & Heritage Festival reminds visitors of an old county fair. It has a folksy charm about it and laid-back, rustic atmosphere.
Organizers promise something for everyone.
The event will feature an arts and crafts fair, tomato-eating contest for both children and adults, tomato-recipe contest, food and beer venders, live music, Ruskin heritage area, Tomato Queen competition and Kids’ Fun Zone. The latter will include lots of old-fashioned, hands-on activities like tomato-art painting and lemonade sip, balloon toss, cornhusk art and a hula hoop contest.
Gibsonton resident Evelyn Vogel, Ruskin’s first Tomato Queen, now in her 90s, will be introduced on stage during the festival’s Tomato Queen competition. The time of her appearance has yet to be set.
There will be about 40 vendors selling everything from local honey, artwork and homemade sauces, spices and dips to soaps, essential oils, handcrafted jewelry, beach apparel and fresh produce.
Judging for Ma’s Tomato Dish Contest will be at 11:30 a.m., and the tomato chow-down contest for kids is set for 1 p.m. The adults will compete at 2:30 p.m. Prizes will be awarded.
The live entertainment will feature country, rock from the ’60s to the ’80s, R&B and Latino music by DJ Tavo, Frank Newlett, Stephanie Rios, the Crabgrass Cowboys, Grupo Tranquilo and El G. Nie.
In conjunction with its ongoing Ruskin history project, the Hillsborough Community College SouthShore campus is supplying old photos and memorabilia for the festival’s heritage area.
Everglades Tractor & Supply, J. J. Taylor Distributing, Drew’s RV, Oops A Daisy Flowers and Gifts, MVP Produce and Sunripe Produce, 5th Third Bank and M&M Printing are among the major sponsors.
Festival admission is $5; children 12 and younger get in free. Additionally, Hillsborough County requires a $2 per vehicle park entry fee.
All proceeds go to the Ruskin Community Development Foundation and its various projects that benefit Ruskin.
“We hope to have a great turnout to help us celebrate Ruskin’s agricultural heritage,” said Sandy Council, RCDF president. “This year’s funds will be earmarked for a project related to the revitalization of downtown Ruskin.”
IF YOU GO
What: The Ruskin Tomato & Heritage Festival
Where: E. G. Simmons Park, 2401 19th Ave. NW, Ruskin
When: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Saturday, May 6
Cost: $5; children 12 and younger, free; $2 park entry fee
Features: Live music, arts and crafts fair, Kids’ Fun Zone, food and beer vendors, heritage area, contests and more
Information: Call 813-641-4099 or visit www.facebook.com/RuskinTomatoFestival/