• 64°

Woodleaf Tomato Festival brings out veterans, family, friends

By Shavonne Walker

WOODLEAF — James Deal knows how to eat a tomato sandwich — just put it between your hands and dive in. At least that’s how he did Saturday at the 12th annual Woodleaf Tomato Festival.

The 95-year-old World War II veteran hasn’t missed many opportunities to eat a tomato sandwich complete with lots of Duke’s mayonnaise, salt and pepper. He attended with his daughter, Melissa Waller, and sister, Paula Hill. Deal, who two years ago with late brother, Lee, were grand marshals in the parade.

He said the event is an opportunity for him to see some old friends. He just returned from a New Orleans trip to the National WWII Museum. Deal served in General Patton’s third Army as a gunner. He was drafted at age 18 and now Deal, who is proud of his 95 and a half years, travels the short distance to the festival from his home just down the road.

Waller said what she likes best about the festival is that it’s “like a homecoming…like a reunion.”

Madalynne Sides, 9, has been attending the festival since before she could remember. Her mother let her know it’s been seven years since the fourth-grader had been attending. She enjoys the music, seeing her friends and getting ice cream, she said.

Before leaving she hoped to buy some jewelry from one of the vendors.

Theresa Athey, who has been attending the festival since it began has always had a booth to sell her canning, crafts and cakes. She made a few cakes that were quickly sold.

Athey cans all summer and uses the three weeks prior to the festival to get ready. She began canning at the age of 18 and uses many of her grandmother Carrie Pinkston’s recipes. Her husband and grandchildren create wooden birdhouses and Athey helps paint them.

Jennie Hemrick was pastor of Unity Presbyterian Church when the idea for the Tomato Festival was born. Hemrick recalled a declaration she made about the town being known for great tomatoes that they should have a festival to pay homage to the fruit.

“I made the statement during a meeting that as many tomatoes as are grown here why don’t y’all honor the tomato,” Hemrick said.

Even though she’s gone on to pastor other churches, she said attending is a time of “renewing friendships and honoring how God has blessed this community.”

Hemrick attended with her church members and family, including granddaughter Scarlett, 2.

Now proceeds from the festival benefit the church and missions.

Co-organizer Patti Safrit said this year they placed more emphasis on honoring military personnel.

“The festival represents everything that Woodleaf is about — old friends sharing a Cheerwine with their friends. It’s just the way it’s supposed to be in the world,” Safrit said.

Festival contest winners:

• Little Miss Mater — Lane Card

• Little Mater Sprout — Harper Durham

• Little Tommy Toe — Rylan Laine

• Tomato Eating Contest — Amy Brown, Junior Division & Franklin Bell, Senior Division

Contact reporter Shavonne Walker at 704-797-4253.


Ask Us

Ask Us: Who are people behind sign at City Park playground?


Prison in Salisbury latest site of COVID-19 outbreak


Blotter: Salisbury Man charged with felony assault by strangulation


Trump vows quick Supreme Court vote, Biden urges delay for Nov. 3


New rule may strip pollution protections from popular lakes

East Spencer

East Spencer draws crowd for annual community day


In Rowan’s legislative races, Howard, Warren get off to strongest start in fundraising


From Navy SEAL to Medicare agent, Trent Waller looks to continue serving his community


In 13th Congressional District race, Budd, Huffman differ on government’s role in COVID-19 help


Rowan County Telecommunications joins new state digital 911 system


School board will consider scheduling public hearings for Faith, Enochville closures


Biz Roundup: Food Lion makes donation to support racial equality and justice


Republicans rally supporters at Saturday lunch


Budd holds wide lead over Huffman in fundraising, cash on hand


UPDATED: 1 shot, 5 in custody after shooting at haunted house that attracted 1,000 visitors


Trump picks conservative Amy Coney Barrett to fill Supreme Court seat


Deadly September propels Rowan County to 100 deaths from COVID-19


Highway Patrol charges man in hit-and-run after finding vehicle hidden in woods


NC elections board, Republicans at odds over absentee ballot rule changes


Voters struggling with witness rules in early voting


Trump expected to announce conservative Amy Coney Barrett for Supreme Court


County reports COVID-19 percent positive rate of 8%


Rowan County United Way sets $1.5 million goal at drive-in kickoff event


Blotter: Adult daughters accused of beating up mother