This weekend’s Tomato Festival is ripening

cpride@losbanosenterpriseOctober 3, 2013 

Organizers are excited that the public is embracing the Los Banos Tomato Festival.

Between 20,000 and 25,000 people are expected to attend the event this weekend.

“It doubled in size last year,” said Molly Cassidy co-chairwoman of the festival. “A lot of our hotels are booked.”

Now in the third year of its current incarnation the organizers of the festival are working hard for the event to become ensconced as a tradition people from near and far clamer to to be a part of.

Cassidy said it is important the Los Banos Tomato Festival have its own identity.

“One thing we tried not to do is make this the Merced County Spring Fair,” she said. “People ask me all the time, ‘Are you going to have carnival rides?’ We’ll probably never have rides.”

What people will find at the festival is a celebration of the tomato. There are cooking classes, chef demonstrations and food contests and wine tasting, all of which revolve around tomatoes. The areas tomato processors will also provide educational material in the form of fun facts and trivia for the event.

The Tomato Festival made a return to Los Banos in 2011. It had been held in the early 1990s but did not stick around.

Michael Amabile, who remembers the festivals 20 years ago and is assisting with the latest version, said the difference between then and now is the involvement of the areas large tomato plants.

“It really has grown and become more intense,” Amabile said.

He said the credit for the festival’s success in the few years since it’s been back goes to Morning Star Company, Kagome Inc. and Ingomar Packing Company. He said the businesses’ financial backing and resources they provide for the festival should keep it around for many years.

Cassidy said the Tomato Festival includes lots of vendors, bands and even pony rides, but the festival still manages to stay true to its theme.

“We just hope we bring lots of fun to the community ,” Cassidy said.

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