Finding a fried green tomato or a Belgian waffle will be more difficult this summer as the city's signature event -- the Reynoldsburg Tomato Festival -- takes a year off to regroup.
This would have been the event's 53rd year, but residents will have to wait until August 2019 to see what organizers hope will be a "bigger and better festival," said Mary Hudson, a member of Reynoldsburg Festivals Inc., the group that has organized the festival for the past nine years.
She said a lot of factors went into the decision to cancel the festival this year.
"We consider the festival to be the crown jewel of Reynoldsburg, and it is a tradition we definitely want to continue," Hudson said. "We need new ideas, however, and new volunteers to make it a bigger and better Tomato Festival."
She said a number of volunteers who helped keep the festival running smoothly had to step down recently.
In addition, a public survey about the event on the Tomato Festival website (reynoldsburgtomatofestival.org) indicated many community members want to see significant changes.
Changes suggested by survey respondents included running a four-day festival as in the past, holding it at Civic Park to accommodate more parking and larger rides, such as a Ferris wheel, and adding more of a variety of midway games, entertainment and fair food.
Hudson said expenses for entertainment have gone up over the years, but the cost of the festival was not really an issue. She said local sponsors, such as Heartland Bank, along with vendor fees, plus contributions from the city of Reynoldsburg for electricity costs and safety personnel, fund the festival each year.
She said there is no question the festival will be held in 2019, but it will be held at Civic Park, not Huber Park.
"If we are going to have a survey, we need to listen to what people want," she said. "Heartland Bank said they would continue to sponsor us in 2019, but we need people to step up with new ideas and to volunteer to help with the festival.
"Holding it at Civic Park will allow for the expansion people want to see, but we hope people will contact us and volunteer," she said.
Hudson said once she gets a list of names of people who want to help, she will set up meetings to brainstorm ideas.
Volunteers should call Hudson at the Visitors Bureau at 614-866-4888 or email her at email@example.com.
"We need community members to step forward and tell us what they want at the Tomato Festival," Hudson said.
"We are committed to making sure the festival happens in 2019, but we need more input and people to help."
No Tomato Festival this summer means a loss of funds for at least one local group -- the Reynoldsburg High School Marching Pride.
Band Booster President Wendy McKenzie Brown said the marching band has handled parking and operated a booth to sell fried green tomatoes at the Tomato Festival for several years, netting about $2,000 per summer.
"We count on that money in our budget to help pay for things like band music and instrument repairs, as well as other expenditures the district does not cover," Brown said. "Our band kids look forward to it every year."
She said the marching band also performs at the Tomato Festival.
"It is an important tradition for the Marching Pride to perform at the festival opening," she said.
Hudson said the volunteer group that has planned the festival for the past nine years is still "passionate about it continuing it" in 2019.
"We really want this festival to be successful, but we want it to be a festival that the community wants to attend," she said.