Woodleaf Tomato Festival brings old friends together
By Shavonne Walker
WOODLEAF — Ann McCullough and her husband, Ron, traveled all the way from Sebastian, Fla., for a tomato sandwich.
The McCulloughs lived in Woodleaf on the Wetmore property from the 1970s through the 1990s, but they never had the opportunity to attend the Woodleaf Tomato Festival, which began nine years ago.
Ann said she intended on buying jams and jellies as well as T-shirts at Saturday’s festival.
Ron said they would catch up with old friends and buy some produce, especially tomatoes.
Ann said they tried to grow tomatoes in Florida, but it just wasn’t the same. She wanted to buy and promptly eat a tomato sandwich.
“We came all this way for a Woodleaf tomato sandwich,” she said proudly. “People have no idea how wonderful it is to come out to this event.”
Billie Perrell of Woodleaf attended the festival with her two daughters, Becky and Amber, and Becky’s twins, Alex and Aaron, 6.
Perrell said they made their rounds at the different vendors, stopping at the pottery tent and another booth where the boys had caricature sketches made.
“It’s like a family reunion. A community reunion,” Becky said.
She said getting to see friends she’d not seen since elementary school and high school was a highlight of the festival.
The family planned to stay most of the day. Perrell said she was waiting for the 3 p.m. performance by Dave Leatherman and Stone County.
Carol Head of Davie County has maintained a booth at the festival since it began nine years ago. Head sold relish, jams, jelly, chow chow, salsa, dry soup mix and local honey.
She recalled in the those first years the vendors’ tents were surrounded by woods, and there wasn’t as many vendors.
The 74-year-old has always sold preserves at the Woodleaf festival and participates in other festivals throughout the year, beginning in the spring.
She began canning as a way to help her mother and continued it through the years. She at first gave her preserves to friends and relatives as gifts until a friend suggested she sell them.
She began making apple butter and pear preserves before branching out into other items. Her daughter, Lisa Spillman, and niece Shirley Barber attended the festival to help Head sell her preserves.
“They will help take it to the craft shows, but they ain’t interested in it,” Head said.
Head said she reads canning cookbooks like people read magazines. She said her best sellers are pear preserves, followed by apple butter and chow chow.
“I just love doing it,” Head said.
It was the first year participating in the festival for Kayla Wright, Miss Rowan County Outstanding Teen, who rode in the parade. Wright, 15, will be a sophomore at Statesville High School. She danced during the festival and also judged the children’s pageant.
Amanda Huss, a Woodleaf native now living in Stanly County, said she and her family attend the festival every year. Huss, along with her husband, Greg, and their two daughters Maelin, 7, and Emery, 4, planned to take part in everything the festival has to offer.
Amanda said she definitely wanted to catch up with old friends, enjoy some tomatoes and check out all of the vendors.