The annual Los Banos Tomato Festival is only eight days away, so I’m pondering now what I’d like to see and do from 10 a.m., when the Oct. 7 event opens, until 7 p.m., when it closes.
The Los Banos Chamber of Commerce has coordinated, under the leadership of chair Michael Amabile, a day with a lot going on. The Tomato Festal tab, in another section of today’s Enterprise, presents the entire schedule, as well as descriptions of events and entertainment, along with times and locations.
I made a list of the activities I find most intriguing and thought I’d share it to prompt other readers to create their own list of what they’d like to see and do.
The event I find most intriguing is the Tomato Catapult. Merced College physics students, encouraged by instructor Lana Jordan, will use catapults they designed and constructed to see which of their medieval devices can fling a tomato the farthest. I would make it a point to stand behind the catapults, not in front.
I’m also intrigued by the Chili Relay, which Kagome chef Sara Praegitzer and Lori Dedmon have created. I’ve seen chili cook-offs before, but never a chili relay – for good reason. Members of each relay team work together to gather, mix and cook up a tasty chili. I will not get in the way of anyone running from the ingredients table to a preparations table. As far as anyone knows, this is the first time a chili relay has been tried anywhere.
I will also hang around the O’Banion Building a while longer to see which junior chef can create the best salsa. When I was as old as these young chefs (ages 4 to 13), I generally stayed away from the kitchen and lingered by the dining room table.
Another event first for me would be the CrossFit Rodeo. I realize this will be one of the few rodeos without horses, but it will be a good test of human fitness. I have heard of CrossFit gyms springing up around the country, but I’ve never been in one nor have I ever seen a CrossFit competition.
These teams take their fitness seriously. They come from all around California and Nevada to see which team can out-fit the other. I will watch from a safe distance.
I appreciate creativity, so I’ll want to see the exhibit of entries in the Art of the Tomato contest. Students from elementary, junior high and high schools, as well as adults, have entered creations featuring the tomato. If I entered such a competition, given my minimal artistic talent, most observers would think my tomato was a rubber ball.
Another creative event is the Little Miss and Mister Tomato Contest. Kids will, among other things, display costumes that reflect tomatoes. I understand one year a boy came as a ketchup bottle. That’s something I could relate to.
I haven’t decided yet whether I want to watch the Chow Down, where individuals compete to eat the most tomatoes in a short amount of time. The winners of previous Los Banos Chow Downs have eaten as much as 3 or even 4 pounds. I’m not sure how I would react to seeing that. However, I may wander by to watch, in the same way I find myself slowing down to see what happened in a traffic accident.
The one event I would make it a point to see (but not enter) is the climax of the festival – the Tomato Tug-of-War. This has all the elements of action and suspense, teams of up to seven people holding onto a rope pulling against each other.
For each tug the winner gets the pride of accomplishment, while the loser gets soaked in a big pit of diced tomatoes. That would give anyone the motivation to win. I admire those who enter this competition because, as much as I’d like the thrill of the victory, I would not want to endure the agony of the tomato pit.
I think I have completed my list, though I may still tinker with it. You should have you own plan ready for Oct. 7.
John Spevak is a resident of Los Banos; he wrote this for the Los Banos Enterprise. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.