Sunshine, tomatoes and crowds abound at festival
Haley Gulick, of Corpus Christi, Texas, enjoys a ride during Saturday’s Hanover Tomato Festival while in town visiting grandparents who reside in Mechanicsville.
Roughly 35,500 people showed up to Pole Green Park Saturday for the 36th annual Hanover Tomato Festival to enjoy the juicy Hanover specialty and the atmosphere.
“We think it went great,” said Marcy Durrer, recreation program director. “Obviously the weather was out of our control, but it was a beautiful day — lots of sun, lots of tomatoes [and] lots of people.”
By the end of the day, tomatoes were completely sold out. Durrer said in recent years, there haven’t been any left over by the festival’s end.
This year’s event was dedicated to Larry Leber, president of Black Creek Volunteer Fire Department. Leber has been involved with the festival for 36 years.
“I think [the executive committee] felt that his contributions to the event have been going for so long,” Durrer said.
Larry Leber, president of Black Creek Volunteer Fire Company, with Jethro Piland, chief of Hanover Fire-EMS, as he is recognized for 36 years of service to the Hanover Tomato Festival.
For Leber, recognition for all of his work over the years came as a surprise.
“It really caught me off guard,” Leber said.
Leber added that usually he finds out about surprises beforehand, but this time it was a complete shock when the committee gave him the news. He said he never really expected to receive any recognition, because that’s not why he does it.
“I just do it because I enjoy doing it,” Leber said.
But, Leber said he was pleased and humbled by the dedication of the event to him.
Over the years, he has had the opportunity to watch the festival grow into what it is today.
“It’s really hard to describe how this thing has grown over the years,” he said. “I’m just thrilled to be a part of it still, and hope I can continue on for a few more years.”
When the festival first started, Leber said it was a small community event held at the Black Creek Volunteer Fire Station. It was one part tomato festival and another part firefighter competition.
“Not in our wildest dreams, when we started this thing, did we ever think it’d get to be the size that it is today,” he said.
Since its beginning, event proceeds have helped the volunteer fire department pay for things that the county may not be able to fund. The festival is the volunteer station’s largest fundraiser and it’s one of the biggest one-day events in the county.
Tiny Miss Hanover Tomato Festival 2014 Bailee Long
Little Miss Hanover Tomato Festival 2014 Nicole Maleta
One item the fire department has its eye on is replacing the tool that’s used to extract people from crashed vehicles.
Leber said their existing device is not unusable but it does have a few years under its belt, and even newer equipment has come out.
“That’s a pretty major expense,” he said.
It would cost somewhere between $10,000 and $20,000 for the upgrade, Leber added.
The money from the festival also helps cover costs for uniforms. Leber said when he was first in the department, he had to buy his own uniforms, but now the station provides them.
“It keeps our volunteers from having to put their money out for uniforms and stuff, where we can take the money from fundraising and help defray some of the costs that they would have to pocket otherwise,” he said.
The festival is able to come to fruition because of some major supporters and helpers. Leber said that in addition to the executive committee and other Black Creek members like himself, the Parks and Recreation department plays a big role in the festival, along with media sponsors and community members.
“Without those key people, there’s no way we could do this by ourselves,” he said.
Best-dressed Tomato Contest Winners
Most Creative, ages 3-5: Gabriel Jordan; ages 6-8: Braden Deis; ages 9-12: Noah Carney; Funniest, ages 3-5: Kaiden Myers; ages 6-8: Jordan Johnson; ages 9-12: Arionna Raymond; Cutest, ages 3-5: Adriana Carpenter; ages 6-8: Emily Rios; ages 9-12: Hannah Knight; Best Overall, ages 3-5: Makayla Grattan; ages 6-8: Steven Payne; ages 9-12: Rachel Wheatley.