Rain and heat won't stop Grainger County Tomato Festival

Rain and heat won't stop Grainger County Tomato Festival

Posted:
The Grainger County Tomato Festival starts Saturday, with some early events scheduled for Thursday and Friday night. The Grainger County Tomato Festival starts Saturday, with some early events scheduled for Thursday and Friday night.

By LAURA HALM
6 News Reporter

RUTLEDGE (WATE) – The recent rain and extreme heat has hurt some of the summer produce in East Tennessee and that could impact a popular festival set to kick off this weekend.

The Grainger County Tomato Festival starts Saturday, with some early events scheduled for Thursday and Friday night.

Is the tomato crop up to par this year after the extremely wet weather?

Farmers like Steve Longmire were busy Thursday unloading truckloads of their produce for this year's tomato festival. While each year is a bit different, he says the rain this summer has taken its toll.

"It's slowed them down from ripening and actually hurt the quality a little bit," Longmire said. "But the good thing it hasn't hurt the flavor. Grainger County tomatoes have the best flavor of any tomato in the world."

Longmire says when tomatoes ripen too quickly it cuts down the number of boxes he'll be able to bring to the festival.

Despite the wet weather, festival organizers say you'll still see just as many local farmers selling their produce.

"I've talked with several of them. I've talked to Luke Stratton and it has affected his first crop," said Kathie Self, an organizer of the Grainger County Tomato Festival.

Mother Nature has even changed the work load for crews setting up. Organizers are asking vendors to use anything strong enough to secure their tents in case severe weather hits. That's because everyone learned a lesson last year after a downpour of rain.

"The vendors know that if we say drop your tents, don't ask any questions. Rain is coming and wind comes with it," added Self.

A little bit of rain isn't going to dampen spirits at this year's festival.

"People are going to come anyway. We'd rather see rain than 100 degree temperature," said Longmire.

Farmers also say the rain has been good for their onion crops. This year's onions are the biggest farmers have ever had.

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