Washington Boro Tomato Festival Review

Washington Boro Tomato Festival

The Festival is held on the:
Second and Third Saturdays of July

5:00 pm to 10:00 pm

Admission: Free

Washington Boro Community Park at the corner of Routes 441 & 999

General Information:
Washington Boro is located along the Eastern bank of The Susquehanna River, Southwest of Lancaster. Washington Boro was settled in 1810 and incorporated in 1827. Originally, the main trades were river rafting and fishing. Farming started as a commerce in the early 1900's. The Washington Boro Tomato Association Co-Op was formed in the early 1930's. At one point Tomato production reached 150,000 plants but today is estimated to be under 10,000 plants.

I pulled up to the Washington Boro Tomato Festival, at the Community Park, around 3:15 pm. I looked around the approx. 5+ acre Park. It's on a hill overlooking the river, a beautiful place with a nice river breeze. At the base of the park is a small building with picnic tables under an overhang roof at the East end. People, mostly Firemen, were setting up the kitchen in the building, while others were setting up booths around the perimeter and a large stage at the top of the hill. It had the feel of the "off the beaten path" summer festivals, we used to frequent in our 1956 Pontiac, when I was a boy. I asked someone passing by "Where are the tomatoes". "Oh, you want the Tomato Barn up the hill on the right." That wasn't The answer, I had in mind. Did I run the travel gauntlet just to blank on my first review? Maybe a trip to the Barn would salvage my day and give me my Tomato fix.

The sign on the Tomato Barn revealed where the 8:00 am - 8:00 pm Washington Boro Tomato Festival time came from. This large old barn was absolutely filled with tomatoes. I was expecting a wild variety of old timey Heirlooms. No, this was F1 Hybrid central. The tomato with star billing is the "Jet Star". Second is called "Sunbright", then came a nice looking yellow known as "a low acid" tomato and finally, a few Plum Tomatoes to cap things off. It seemed the Jet Star Sweet tomatoes were everyone's favorite. The barn was filled with them. The workers were, as was the claim on the shipping boxes touting them as the "Sweetest Tomatoes on Earth"

Pretty big claim. So, I bought some, dusted one off and Wow! Very Sweet. I guess it's ok to put all of your tomatoes in one basket if they're really good ones. These Jet Stars were very good. Maybe it's the river soil or the growers found the magic combination. I guess the old "don't mess with success" holds true here. The Sunbrights were good but were a little more gritty and acidic than the Jets.

It's Washington Boro Tomato Festival time!

The barn was on one of two main roads. Maybe I was engrossed in my tomato expedition and missed a whole bunch of cars going to the Washington Boro Tomato Festival. People had showed up in numbers and parking was now at a premium. I decided to sit on the benches in the covered area and observe for a while. It was 4:00 pm and as predicted the take out window for the Chicken Corn Soup was already very long. People were carrying huge pots and assorted containers.

How did this Soup take over the Washington Boro Tomato Festival? I got in line to give it a try. The people at this event were great. There were some heated, yet joking, conversations as to whether this was the Best Chicken Corn Soup. Some liked it thicker, meatier or with more corn. The menu included burgers, hot dogs and barbecue sandwiches all being served from the little building. It was more like Fourth of July revisited than a Tomato Festival. I had to know. "Are they serving any Tomatoes here?" I asked openly to anyone in line that would answer. Sensing my desperation the couple in front of me turned, smiled and said "They're waiting for you around the other side of the building. We'll save you a seat"

There it was simplicity. The best Tomato dish on the planet with the Sweetest Tomatoes on Earth. There's a right place and time for everything and this was it, an open air Tomato Sandwich Stand. It was like waiting for that first kiss and getting ready to enjoy every millisecond of the experience. I thought it was me at first, but others were eating stacks of these simple beauties closing their eyes at every bite. Sweet tomatoes at their best.

I sat down with some new old friends and started chowing. I forgot about my Chicken Corn Soup until now and gave it a try. Very nice! Alternating bites of the sweet tomatoes sandwich with sips of the wonderful soup, I finally understood this simple marriage. Life had just slowed down long enough to taste every nuance. No hectic, breathe some food down power eating. Just simple tastes on a beautiful, breezy, summer day with some great laid back people. Just as I was getting all natural, the lady next to me nudged me and asked if I'd seen the dessert table.

I looked over and there was every great pie you could imagine. Shoe Fly pie, Blueberry, Coconut Cream, Cheese Cake, Blackberry pie, Pecan pie and more. The girls serving had picked the Blackberries just days before and their mother cooked the pies. I had to go for a walk before I could eat pie. The band was setting up, the lawn chairs were filling the meadow ready for a night of music, food and fun. Around the edges the wheels and devices for games of chance were starting to spin. And there it was, a blast from the past. The old Frog Pond Catapult game.

Smash the archaic mechanism with the big rubber mallet, Launch the frog (pretend one, not that archaic) into one of the five metal lily pads and win a doll. Old School gaming at it's best. As I was heading to the pie table, I realized I didn't want to leave. But I knew I'd have to time my travel through the winding unfamiliar back roads so I'd be in a familiar place by dark. Just as the Band was warming up and the crowd was kicking back for the nighttime portion of the Festival, I was waving goodbye to some of the wonderful people I had met in this brief afternoon visit. Other than a couple of intruding cell phones, this was nirvana. The way things were when life wasn't so fast. Oh yeah, The Washington Boro Tomato Festival had tomatoes too.

For the Tomato Festival Purist there are no fancy heirloom tomato display/tasting tables, exotic tomato recipes, carnival rides or beauty pageants. If you don't need larger than life Festivals and would like to relax and take it all in, The Washington Boro Tomato Festival is the place. Don't forget to take the back way to the Festival.

Prices for tomatoes, fruit and vegetables weren't "bring bushels home" cheap. Tomatoes were the same price or a little less than home. The big difference is you can't buy this kind of quality in a grocery store.

Good news! The proceeds from the Washington Boro Tomato Festival go to help maintain the Fire Department and provide safety for these folks.

Has anyone seen these water filled baggies in use before? They had them in every window of the Washington Boro Tomato Festival kitchen house. We were told that if you stick one these above an open window flies won't come in. I didn't see any flies and I looked a couple of times. We had some great debates regarding the authenticity of the water baggies theory while eating. Is this an Urban Legend?

The Washington Boro Methodist Church published a great Tomato Recipes Cook Book for sale at the Washington Boro Tomato Festival. Here is the

Washington Boro Methodist Church Cookbook Order Page

Washington Boro Tomato Festival Preview

It's time to make plans for visiting the
2014 Washington Boro Tomato Festival
and the The UMC Tomato Feast

Looking for great tomato Recipes? Check the Everything Tomatoes Recipe List