Grainger Tomato Festival  set for Friday, Saturday

Returning after a year’s absence, one of East Tennessee’s largest free festivals returns as the 28th Grainger County Tomato Festival is set this Friday and Saturday at Rutledge Elementary School on U.S. Highway 11W in Rutledge.

The highlight of this year’s event is a free concert by Eddie Montgomery of Montgomery Gentry to be held at 7 p.m., Saturday at SunFresh Produce and Service Center, located across the street from the tomato festival grounds. Admission is free, but tickets are required for admission. Passes can be picked up at the Tennessee Homegrown Tomatoes booth at the festival and SunFresh Produce and Service Center. Concessions will be sold.

The festival kicks off with the Grainger County Opry at 6:30 p.m., Friday, July 23.

The Opry highlights local talent with country, bluegrass and gospel music, as well as plenty of comedy and audience participation. Featured artists include Christin Greenlee, Gospel Strings, Cooter Daniel, Tommy White, Alexis Patterson, Ambria Collins, Cliff and Debbie Jestice, Darla Daniel and Mark Livesay.

Special guests include Jeff Stansberry and Friends and Jodie Roach in her role as Grand Ole Opry legend Minnie Pearl. Newcomer Matt Byrd will also perform.

Saturday’s events are a tomato lover’s dream. The famous “Tomato Wars” will be held at the school, as well as an art show, living history, clogging, antique cars, agricultural equipment, authors and a main stage of continuous music.

The Art Show will include original art and a living history exhibit. There will be working artists, historians, and regional authors.

The Farmer’s Area will feature farming throughout Grainger County’s history as well as an assortment of old-time farm machinery, some of which will be in operation.

Even though this year’s festival will be abbreviated due to COVID-19 and the required guidelines, plenty of fun awaits all who come.

Country and gospel music abound from the main stage beginning at 9 a.m., Saturday. Anthony Carver begins the entertainment at 9 a.m., followed by the Central Point Boys at 9:30, Parker Presley at 10, Jeff Stansberry and Friends at 10:45, Cliff and Debbie Jestice at 11:30, Cooter Daniel and Kristen Cole at 12:15 p.m.

Afternoon entertainment includes Christin Greenlee at 1 p.m., Presley at 1:30, Gospel Strings at 2:30, Aaron Justice at 3 p.m., Billy Sales and the Classic Country Band at 3:30, Cliff and Debbie Jestice at 4:30 and Matt Byrd at 5 p.m.

The dance stage entertainment will include the Tennessee Hoedowners at 10 a.m., Motown Cloggers at 10:30, Broken Spur Line Dancers at 11 a.m., with the Southern Taps Clogging Company following at 11:30.

Afternoon performers include Dancers Unlimited at noon, the Pine Mountain Dancers at 12:30, the Stepping Out Line Dancers at 1 p.m., and the Tennessee Foothill Cloggers at 1:30, and 2 p.m. with Mississippi Squirrel. Deb McCarter will wind down the performances at 2:30 p.m.

The famous Tomato Wars, which happens at 10 a.m., Saturday, will have rotten tomatoes flying all over the place at 40 miles per hour. All funds raised at the wars go to YOKE ministries. There will be a main stage of entertainment with continuous live music, in addition to numerous food, commercial and arts and crafts vendors. Proceeds from the festival help support local non-profit organizations, local craftsmen and tomato growers.

The Grainger County Tomato Festival was organized in 1992 to promote world-famous Grainger County Tomatoes. Our mission is to promote all Grainger County agricultural products, specifically the Grainger County Tomato, and to promote the many local artists, authors, talent, and craftsmen we have in our area.

There is no charge for parking and attendance to all events are free.

For more information, go to www.graingercountytomatofestival.com