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Tomato Festival opens before concert, fireworks

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After record-breaking spring rain, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension service is hosting the Hopkins County Tomato Festival at Sulphur Springs City Hall on Saturday evening before the 4th of July celebration.

“The whole reason for this festival is to promote gardening. It’s an afternoon to come out and enjoy everyone with like interests. Even if you do not have tomatoes to enter in the contest, the Master Gardeners will be there to answer your questions about anything related to gardening,” said Hopkins County Extension Agent Mario Villarino. “Saturday was the best time to hold the festival. For tomatoes, the flowering process stops after temperatures exceed 90 degrees.” 

The main portion of the Tomato Festival with be judging in two contests,  growing and recipe contest. The contests are further divided into classes and age categories. 

In the growing category, tomatoes will be divided into cherry, pear, large red and Goliath. Each participant has to bring three perfect tomatoes for the class they are entering. All three tomatoes will be inspected on similarities and quality. 

“Our new classification will be the Goliath category. We are going to weigh the tomatoes and the biggest entry will get the award. The Goliath tomato does not have to be perfect, but it does have to be a Big Boy tomato. I think this category will spice up the contest a little,” said Villarino. “This is the third year we are having the Tomato Festival and last year we had a dozen entries. I am hoping for more this year.”

The second part of the Tomato Festival is the recipe contest. Anyone can enter in the main dish, side dish or salsa classes. Tomatoes need to be the primary ingredient in each dish. There with also be age divisions: 12 years old and younger, 13 to 18 years, and 19 years and older.

“People can bring anything from salsa to something a little more complicated,” said Villarino. “Not everybody knows that tomatoes come in all sizes and colors. People are used to seeing the round red tomato in the grocery store but there are blue, yellow and black tomatoes.”  

Villarino specializes in growing his tomato crop in buckets. Earlier this year, he helped Sulphur Springs Elementary School construct a garden in which they used his bucket system. At the end of the semester, the students harvested their produce and held a salad day for lunch. 

“I am going to bring some of my tomato buckets because it is so cost effective and easy to learn how to do. The buckets can increase food production and save money when people go to the grocery store,” said Villarino.

The festival will begin at 6 p.m. Saturday in the City Hall courtyard. There is no charge to enter in the contest. 

For more information about the festival, call 903-885-3443.   

Pastor asks community to assemble for evening of prayer

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Minister Valanderous Bell is calling all church congregations in the community to rally on the square next Thursday for a community devotional and candlelight vigil. The evening of prayer will focus on healing the nation and re-establishing God in America.

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