The Dorchester County Historical Society (DCHS) will inaugurate a new Dorchester tradition on Saturday, August 4, 2012, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. when it hosts the county’s first annual Great Tomato Festival. This free all-day event, which will take place on the grounds of the Elks Lodge on Route 50 south of Cambridge, MD, will feature everything tomato: food, including fried green tomatoes; along with a host of other tomato-themed activities including children’s games, face painting, salsa contests, square dancing and salsa dancing. The event will even include a “Tomato War” playoff where locally sponsored teams of tomato warriors engage in very messy combat.
Musical entertainment throughout the day will feature local entertainers Buddy Mowbray, T. George Wittstadt and Art Wheatley, as well as the regionally famous “Swamp Candy” duo. Vendors of crafts and memorabilia will be in attendance, and DCHS will provide displays and presentations that recall the heyday of tomato production and canning in Cambridge and Dorchester County.
Until about 50 years ago, Dorchester County was home to a major agricultural industry that centered on tomato farming and canning. The Phillips Packing Company, headquartered in Cambridge, was formed in 1902, and at one time was the largest tomato canning company in the United States, providing jobs for about 10,000 workers at its peak. The company led Cambridge’s economic growth during the first half of the 20th Century, but changes in the industry led to its decline and eventual sale in the late 1950s. The cannery itself was destroyed by fire in 1965.
The Dorchester County Historical Society prides itself on “Preserving our past, celebrating our heritage.” According to Ann Phillips, Executive Director of DCHS, “Tomato growing and tomato canning were such an important part of Dorchester County’s past that it’s only fitting to honor that part of our history 50 years after it drew to a close. There’s certainly no reason why we can’t celebrate it with a festival, and have a little fun in the process. While we’re at it, we’ll highlight much more of Dorchester’s history with many heritage demonstrations.”
The Festival will be held at Elks Lodge #1272 on Elks Lodge Road off Route 50 just south of Cambridge. DCHS will welcome any additional vendors and heritage demonstrators that would like to participate in the event. Non-profits in particular are encouraged to attend to promote both Dorchester County and themselves. There is no fee for non-profits, whether they set up an information-only table or offer items for sale. Commercial vendors are asked to pay a $25 per table fee.
For additional information call DCHS at 410-228-7953 or email them at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In photo: Pictured is regional favorite Swamp Candy, who will bring their aggressive mix of Stomping-Mississippi-Blues to the Great Tomato Festival on August 4. Shown left to right are bassist Joey Mitchell and guitarist Ruben Dobbs.