Each year, Beaufort festivals celebrate an array of products that bear the stamp of the Lowcountry, from shrimp to soft shell crabs to Gullah cuisine. This year, local resident Robert Sample thought it was time to celebrate another area staple: the tomato.
The real estate developer had the idea for a new event, one that played off the area's strong history -- especially on nearby St. Helena Island -- of tomato farming and packing in the summer.
"Tomatoes are a big part of our culture here," Sample said. "This is a big tomato area, and it's a shame that we don't have a tomato festival."
That will change on July 12.
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Sample shared his idea with Plum Productions creative director Jodie Miller, whose event production agency puts on festivals like Habersham's Harvest Festival and June's inaugural Bottles and Barrels event.
Miller was immediately on board with the tomato festival idea, expanding it to include an obstacle course 5K race, a fun run for kids, a petting zoo, food trucks and an all-out food fight dubbed the Tomato Bash.
The vegetable battle takes its cue from similar events in Spain and Colombia, where the squishy projectiles turn streets into rivers of seedy red slush.
Beaufort's festival at Cane Island Farm Road will include 10,000 pounds of locally grown tomatoes from Seaside Farms and Lipman Produce, Miller said.
Eye protection will be required for the Tomato Bash, and participants will be hosed afterward. Tomatoes must be crushed before throwing and aimed at the waist down to avoid injuries, Miller said.
All of the tomatoes are cull tomatoes, which means they are not approved for consumption, she added.
The festival also will include a Ferris wheel, inflatable games and swings. Local band Amber and the Fossils will provide entertainment throughout the event.
Proceeds will benefit the Wardle Family YMCA's annual scholarship campaign, according to the event's website. Sponsors include Plum Productions, the YMCA, Beaufort Memorial Hospital, the Beaufort Regional Chamber of Commerce, Picklejuice Productions and Eat, Sleep, Play Beaufort.
For Sample, the festival is a chance to remember the tomatoes he grew up with while working in his grandparents' fields on St. Helena Island.
Tomatoes have been a part of his childhood and the area for a long time, he said. "I thought (the festival) would be a way to draw some attention to tomato farming and have some fun."
Follow reporter Erin Shaw at twitter.com/IPBG_ErinShaw.