By LOIS KINDLE
One of the things that makes South Shore a special place is the celebration of community in its annual festivals. The Ruskin Tomato & Heritage Festival is one of them.
This year’s event will take place May 11, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., at E. G. Simmons Regional Park, 2401 19th Ave. NW, Ruskin. Thousands of folks of all ages are expected to attend.
The observance of Ruskin’s agricultural history is hosted by the Ruskin Community Development Foundation. With its folksy charm and laid-back atmosphere, it’s much like an old county fair. There’s something to do for everyone in the family.
The event will feature an arts and crafts fair, Tomato Queen competition, food and beer venders, live music, huge Kidz Zone, Roamin’ Oldies car show, plus a Ruskin history display by Hillsborough Community College SouthShore.
Females of all ages are invited to sign up for the Tomato Queen contest. The entry fee is $50, and there will be winners in four age groups: 5 to 12, 13 to 19, 20 to 40, and 41 and older. Each one receives a tiara, sash, Salty Shamrock gift certificate and an invitation to ride in the annual Ruskin VFW Veterans Day Parade. For an application and further information, email email@example.com.
Merchandise vendors, like Fanspired, LulaRoe, NIK-Y-NAK, Sand Art Smiles, Outfishing Apparel and Soaps by Sapienza, will be selling everything from local honey, sand art and handcrafted jewelry to soaps, beach apparel and more.
Hungry visitors will find lots of food choices from C & J Specialty, Rockstar Lobster, D & L Tomato Sandwiches, Rosa’s Tacos and BLTs, and Pop’s Ice Treats.
This year’s live entertainment will feature The Black Honkeys, a wildly popular area band that performs Motown, funk, soul and rock ’n’ roll. Also appearing will be St. Pete Sons, Angelica Brevard, Jazmine Eargood, Gabrielle Ray and Alexis Henry.
Major sponsors include TECO, The Ruskin Community Foundation, Debbie Bates Allstate, Pepin Distributing, Jaymar Produce and Welmed and Nicoletti Law.
Drew’s RV, Oops A Daisy Flowers and Gifts, MVP Produce, The Observer News, Everglades Farm Equipment and the Roamin’ Oldies are among this year’s in-kind sponsors.
Festival admission is $5; children, 12 or younger, and active military; first responders; and military retirees with valid IDs get in free. In addition, Hillsborough County requires a $2 per vehicle park entry fee.
“Anyone who visits the festival is sure to have a good time,” said Sandy Council, president of the nonprofit Ruskin Community Development Foundation. “It’s family-oriented, there is something for everyone and we’ve strongly encouraged our vendors to keep their prices as low as possible.
“All proceeds go right back into the community for projects benefiting Ruskin,” she continued, “like the Firehouse Cultural Center, restoration of March Creek, Camp Bayou Outdoor Learning Center and the boardwalk at Common Good Park.”
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 11
Cost: $5; children, 12 or younger, and active military; first responders; and military retirees with valid IDs, free; $2 park entry fee
Features: Live music, arts and crafts, Kidz Zone, food and beer vendors, Roamin’ Oldies car show, heritage area, Tomato Queen contest and more.