The 2019 Reynoldsburg Tomato Festival promises something old, something new and something for everyone.
After a year's hiatus, the free festival is scheduled for Aug. 8-10 in Huber Park, 1520 Davidson Drive.
Reynoldsburg Festivals Inc. organized the festival for nine years before turning over operations to the city last year.
Started in 1965, the festival honors Reynoldsburg's claim to fame as the birthplace of a sweeter, edible tomato created by resident Alexander W. Livingston. In 1870, he was the first to upgrade the wild tomato plant.
Under city management, the festival has brought back carnival rides, added national musical acts and expanded entertainment to include more tomato-themed offerings like chili and salsa contests.
"We have made a few changes to the festival layout, but really we are just continuing the efforts of the many volunteers that came before us," said Jennifer Clemens, the city's special-events and media coordinator.
"Reynoldsburg is known throughout Ohio for the Tomato Festival, and that is due, in part, to all the years of dedication those volunteers poured into honoring the history of our city."
A Tomato War, scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Aug. 8 on Davidson Drive, will help kick off the festival.
Open to the first 150 participants who pay the $10 registration fee, the "war" will be a food fight of rotten-tomato-filled proportion, with proceeds benefiting Reynoldsburg Helping Hands and the Heart Food Pantry.
Participants should register at sports.bluesombrero.com/Reynoldsburg.
Initially called the Heritage Holiday Festival and Tomato Show, the first festival included a tomato fight between Republicans and Democrats, Clemens said.
"I decided right then and there we needed to bring this event back. Every great festival has an element unique to that community that the residents can look forward to every year," she said. "The 2019 Tomato War is open to all residents 15 and up, and we welcome teams and costumes."
Phil Vassar will close the festival with a performance at 9 p.m. Aug. 10. In addition to writing for some of country music's biggest stars, Vassar has 10 No. 1 hits, including "American Child," "Six-Pack Summer" and "Just Another Day in Paradise."
Columbus country group North to Nashville will open for Vassar at 6:30 p.m.
Great White, the California-based band with several '80s hits, including "Once Bitten, Twice Shy," is scheduled to play at 8:30 p.m. Aug. 9. Columbus rock band Black Coffee opens at 6:30 p.m.
Columbus band Lt. Dan's New Legs will perform at 8:30 p.m. Aug. 8.
A number of pageants will crown 2019 Tomato Festival royalty, with the queens pageant slated Aug. 10.
A car and bike show will be held Aug. 10 with awards given to Tomato Fest Favorites and other categories. Registration opens at 11 a.m. and is $15, cash only.
A carnival midway has unlimited-ride wristbands available for $20. Tickets also can be purchased at $1 each, with rides requiring three or four tickets.
A Kids Corner area will feature activities for those 10 and younger with crafts, bounce houses and other attractions.
Cooks and gardeners are invited to enter a variety of contests for best salsa, chili and tomato.
The festival is seeking the top salsa in its Killer Tomato Salsa Challenge, slated for 7 p.m. Aug. 8. It's $20 to enter the challenge, but samples from contestants are free with a stipulation of voting in the contest.
Gardeners are invited to drop off entries 4 to 7 p.m. Aug. 7 at the festival's community tent for the tomato contest categories -- including largest, smallest and oddest-shaped tomatoes.
Winners will be announced during the opening ceremony Aug. 8.
Reynoldsburg is the new home of a two-day chili cook-off hosted by the International Chili Society. The ICS is a nonprofit that helps run more than 80 cook-offs nationwide and is host to the annual World Championships every fall.
Reynoldsburg expects as many as 30 cooks to compete in two contests -- the Buckeye Regional Chili Cook-Off and the Ohio State Chili Cook-Off, Clemens said.
Visitors can pay $5 for unlimited tastings. Visit chilicookoff.com to register.
In keeping with the tomato theme, visitors will be able to enjoy a Bloody Mary bar in addition to purchasing beer and wine. Drink tickets for water, pop, sports drinks and alcohol will be sold at booths next to the drink stands and in the beer garden, Clemens said.
"They're fencing the whole grounds, so you can walk around with your beer or your wine. There's a good mix of food -- at least a dozen different vendors -- but make sure you get the fried green tomatoes. It'll be interesting to look around and see how many tomato options there are," volunteer Paul Yarger said.
The city said it needs more volunteers to reach its goal of 300. Those wanting to volunteer can visit reytomato fest.com/volunteers.
In more than a dozen years volunteering for the Tomato Festival, Yarger has done a little bit of everything -- from assisting with the queens pageant and supervising parking to becoming a "roving electrician" helping vendors connect to power.
"Typically, I take that whole week off," said Yarger, 63. "A week or so before, we're laying out tents and walking the site, marking areas. Then the vendors come in and we get them set up. In the past, it's pretty much been a full-time job for me that whole week.
"The continued success of the Tomato Festival depends on people coming to it and those who are willing to volunteer. Everything you see at the festival today is because somebody stood up to take it on."
There will be little rest after the event.
"Planning efforts for the 2020 Tomato Festival will begin in September," Clemens said. "It takes a year to plan an event of this magnitude. The volunteers are passionate about keeping this tradition going and adding elements that will reach the new residents of Reynoldsburg. We are very lucky to have a community that engages in serving in their own backyard."
Festival hours will be 4 to 11 p.m. Aug. 8 and Aug. 9 and 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. Aug. 10.
Parking is available at JFK Park, 7232 E. Main St., and a shuttle will service parking at the Reynoldsburg High School Livingston Campus, 6699 E. Livingston Ave., and the Kroger lot at the intersection of Aida Drive and East Main Street, Clemens said.
A designated ride share pick-up and drop-off point will be at the intersection of Davidson and Haft drives.
Attendees are welcome to bring chairs, but pets, coolers, backpacks, firearms and outside alcohol are prohibited.
A schedule of events can be found at reytomatofest.com/schedule.