Published August 24, 2023 | By Lynn Blamires, feature writer for My Local Utah
As we enter the 2023 harvest season, Hooper City is celebrating with its annual Tomato Days festival. This fiesta got my attention because I love tomatoes, especially homegrown tomatoes – they are so juicy and full of flavor.
This Year Is Tomato Days 98th Year
Hooper has set aside Saturday, September 2, and Monday, September 4 for this year’s gala. Tomato Days 2023 marks the 98th year this event has been held.
Tomato Days Started with a Big Cannery
Tomato Days used to be more about the commercial production of tomatoes than it is today. Early in Hooper’s history, there was a cannery supplied by local tomato farmers. Their fields were large and productive. The Hooper soil is especially suited for growing delicious tomatoes.
The Cannery is Gone but the Soil Still Grows Good Tomatoes
The cannery is gone and so are the tomato farms, but the soil is still there, and local residents take advantage of it by growing their own wonderful crops. While the day of the tomato is not what it used to be, the celebration is bigger than ever.
The Day Starts with The Tomato Chase 5K
The day opens at 7:30 with a traditional pancake breakfast followed by a flag-raising ceremony at 8:00. At 8:30 the 5K run starts. It is called The 5K Tomato Chase. As a part of the race, a man dressed like a tomato has money taped to his costume. If you can catch him, you will be able to snag an extra buck or two.
They have made it attractive by awarding cash prizes in a lot of categories. Prizes will be given for 1st, 2nd, and 3rd places for both male and female in the following age groups:
- Under 14, 15-19, 20-29, 30-39, 40-49, 50-59, 60-69, and 70 and older.
- 1st place prizes will be given for both males and females in the following age groups: Under 5, 6-7, 8-9, 10-11.
A Variety of Vendors Will Entice Visitors
Throughout the day beginning at 9:00, vendors will be displaying their wares in a variety of categories:
- Business and marketing vendors will show commercial products
- Artisan vendors will be showing crafts and handmade items
- Food vendors will offer pre-packaged food
- Food trucks and trailers will be selling their variety of treats and hot meals
- Farmers market vendors will be offering fresh produce. No doubt tomatoes will be included.
The Cherry Tomato Baby Show and Car Show
The Cherry Tomato Baby show opens at 10 a.m. The car show will be open at the same time.
The Miss Pink Tomato and Mr. Red Tomato Contest
Boys and girls from 3 to 5 years of age will compete in the Miss Pink Tomato and Mr. Red Tomato competition at 1:00. Children will be judged in swimsuits, no hair bows, accessories, props, or make-up. A King and Queen will be picked from each of the three age groups.
The Junior Rodeo Will Focus on the Young Cowboys
The Junior Rodeo will start at 3:30 p.m. Events will include the Goat Ribbon Pull, Goat Tying, and Dummy Roping. Other events include Mutton Busting, Calf Riding, and the Stick Horse competition. The Junior Rodeo Queen and her court will be in attendance at the rodeo events. The Junior Rodeo will wind up on Monday, September 4 in the evening at 7 p.m.
Live Concert in the Park Followed by Fireworks
At 8:00 The Charlie Jenkins Band will be featured in the park. Bring your lawn chairs, and blankets, and enjoy the remarkable music of this popular band. Fireworks will light up the night at dark.
Monday, September 5
Celebrations continue on Labor Day with the big Tomato Days Parade. The parade will come right down Main Street at 9:00 a.m. The Farmer’s Market and vendor booths also open at 9:00 a.m. The food vendors and concessionaires open at 10:00 a.m.
Children’s games and rides start at 10:00 a.m. at the park along with the Farm Animal Zoo, which will be at the Playground Area. The Tractor Show starts at 10:30 a.m. at the Park. 4 on 4 Volleyball starts at Ball Park at 11:00 a.m. and a dog race will be run in the Arena at noon.
The Cow Drop Is Something to See
After the dog run in the same Arena the Cow Drop will happen. I had to look this one up. It works like this. The Arena is laid out in squares approximately 51/2 feet square. You can buy a square for $5. After the dog race, a happy well-fed cow will be let out into the Arena. The person who paid for the square where the cow drops the remains of her last meal wins the prize.
The Sawdust Scramble
At 3:00 p.m. there will be a Sawdust Scramble in the Small Bowery. Children 12 and under will have a chance to search through piles of sawdust to find treasures. To be fair they will be broken into age groups – 3 and under, 6 and under, 9 and under, and 12 and under. Each group will have their turn.
Bingo Lovers Meet at the Large Tent
Bingo will be from 4:00 to 5:00 p.m. in the Large Tent
The Big Rodeo Will Feature a Hide Race
The big rodeo will be on Monday night. It will include the main events that you would expect at a rodeo – however, there are some events that I have never seen before.
There will be a hidden race. This consists of two riders on horseback dragging a cowhide to a barrel at the other end of the arena. Cowboys waiting at the barrels will hop on the hide and are drug back to the starting point. It can get quite exciting especially when the cowboy misses the hide. Several heats will be run to determine a winner.
The Ring of Fear Will Be Something to See
Another event featured at this rodeo is called the Ring of Fear. Rodeo organizers are asking for 10 entries – these people will take a large ring into the arena, place it in the dirt, and stand in it. At a signal, a gate will open and a mad bull will be released into the stadium. The last man standing in his ring is the winner. There is a $20 registration fee so there will be at least $200 in the pot. No doubt there will be contributors who will sweeten the deal.
There will be rodeo clowns in the arena who will be taunting the bull should he show a lack of interest. Should a contestant who might be in the path of the charging bull, leave his ring and run for the fence, he will not be blamed, but he will lose his chance to win the pot. It takes a lot of guts to face a lot of bull. I am guessing the contestants will be young and might be foolish. I doubt that there will be a lot of wise old cowboys standing in any of those rings.
Understanding Slack Rodeo
After the rodeo, the Slack Rodeo will be held. I had to research this event as well. In a regular PCRA Rodeo, those who compete have earned the right to compete. They hold a PCRA card meaning that they have won at least $1,000 in prize money at PCRA rodeos. Slack Rodeo happens after the regular rodeo and it is the chance for cowboys to earn their PCRA card and to be able to compete in the main rodeo. If you want to see a long list of top performers and get a sneak peek at the rodeo action, you want to attend Slack, which has no admission fees.
And that Wraps Up Hooper City Tomato Days
Hooper City has packed a lot into its Tomato Days celebration. Of course, they have – they have been at it for 98 years. It is what they do every year and they look forward to it and so can you.