The idea started small, with many goals.
Trudie Bason, owner of Timeless Gardens Nursery, said she wanted to promote her nursery on Brewster Road.
At the same time, Bason wanted to benefit Hannah’s House, a branch of Teen Challenge for women and their children younger than 10.
“Tomatoes and salsa just go together,” Bason said.
She sells tomato starts in the spring. Often people aren’t sure which tomatoes to buy. By hosting a tomato and salsa festival, customers have a chance to mark down which heirloom varieties they prefer, making spring planting much easier, Bason said.
“So many people this time of year are buying basil or cilantro, bragging about the salsa they make,” Bason said.
After an internet search revealed a popular tomato and salsa festival in California, Bason said her festival was born.
“Between that and so many customers bragging about their salsas, I thought this would be a fun thing to have,” she said. “People who don’t cook at all make salsa.”
The festival has gotten exponentially bigger each year.
Four years ago, just three people entered salsas, and about 15 people came, Bason said.
Last year, it really picked up when she began marketing it online through the nursery’s website and Oregon Country Trail, an agri-tourism system.
Through the Oregon Country Trail, Bason was able to invite vendors to the event, and host a biggest tomato contest.
“Last year, because it was not a good year for tomatoes, a medium-sized tomato won,” Bason said. “She was the only one that brought a tomato, so she won.”
This year wasn’t the best year for tomatoes, either, Bason said. But that didn’t stop Neal Maddy, who won for biggest tomato with his 1.5 pound entry of a Caspian Pink variety.
Turnout for salsa entries more than doubled from last year to 30. Shelby Bason won best all-around salsa; Diana Fields won most unusual; and Becca Belcher won spiciest.
More than 100 people came to taste salsas, tomatoes and tomato-based foods, such as tomato soup and fried green tomatoes.
The event raised $150 for Hannah’s House.
“We doubled our money for Hannah’s House,” Bason said. “As we grow — obviously we’re growing, how exciting is that — we’ll think of other things.”
This was the first year Bason has charged an entry fee for salsas. A recipe booklet was on sale, with proceeds going to Hannah’s House.
The festival is held the second Saturday of September at Timeless Gardens Nursery, 33527 Brewster Road.