Editorial: Oscar Watson was the Hanover Tomato Festival

Editor’s Note: The below editorial appeared in our Sept. 27, 2012 edition following Oscar Watson’s death. We thought it appropriate to republish this piece as this weekend’s Tomato Festival is dedicated to Watson, a longtime event organizer and Black Creek fireman. He’s to thank for making the event what it is and though I am a newcomer to the Tomato Festival, I can sense the mark he made on Hanover’s signature event. – LKF


When I arrived at the Herald-Progress eight years ago, there was a framed aerial view of the Hanover Tomato Festival on the windowsill of my new office. I was told I’d be expected to become involved in planning the annual event, one I knew nothing about.

My education began about two weeks later when I attended my first festival board meeting, which we hosted in the H-P’s conference room. I arrived well before 8 a.m. to brew the coffee. Oscar was in the parking lot waiting for me to open up. It wasn’t long before I found out I had inherited the position of Festival Vice President, a post Jay Pace held before his death.

With Oscar as President, playing second fiddle was a piece of cake and largely ceremonial. Oscar was one of the Black Creek Volunteer Firefighters who had started the festival more than 34 years ago. He knew the event inside and out and rarely missed a meeting, regardless of his personal circumstances or health.

Heck, Oscar Watson was the Hanover Tomato Festival. He guided it from its infancy as little more than a roadside produce stand in front of the fire hall, through a larger event at Battlefield Park Elementary School, to the largest spectator event in Hanover County with crowd counts topping 40,000. Oscar’s wife, Sandy, and their daughter, Lynn are among the festivals hardest working volunteers.

The Herald-Progress got on board to help with publicity, and Parks and Recreation, Hanover Fire/EMS, the Sheriff’s Department and other organizations have joined in to make the Festival what it is today.

Through it all, Oscar kept things running smoothly. He was the voice of reason – Mr. Unflappable. I guess he saw enough in his decades as a volunteer fireman that no problem was insurmountable to him.

Year after year, Oscar battled back from illness and even the tragic loss of his son to lead yet another Tomato Festival. The last two times I saw him were at this year’s Festival in July and calmly presiding over the monthly festival meeting in August. He sat in a golf cart with an oxygen bottle nearby at the Festival, but appeared his old self again in August.

Oscar Watson passed away Sept. 7. He was preceded in death by his son, Michael, and is survived by his wife, Sandy; daughter, Lynn; stepdaughter, Lisa Balsom; three granddaughters, Kellie and Megan Watson and Ashlee Balsom; grandson, Josh Balsom; great-granddaughter, Willow Grace; daughter-in-law, Diana Watson; several nieces and nephews; and his extended family at the Black Creek Volunteer Fire Department where he served as President and Chief for over 30 years.

Greg Sager, Stan Thorne and their very capable cohorts at Parks and Recreation have shouldered much of the Festival burden over the last decade. The Tomato Festival will go on without Oscar.

It has become something of a cliché to say, “He will be missed.” In Oscar’s case, we really mean it.


– Gregory K. Glassner, Editor


Posted on Wednesday, July 10, 2013 at 4:34 pm