MedWatch- Lawton Farmers Market Annual Tomato Festival from Medwatch 7 KSWO on Vimeo.

LAWTON, OK (KSWO)- Whether you say tomato or tomato, you can’t argue how this fruit offers plenty of health benefits. And in Lawton, we celebrate the tomato each year with the annual Tomato Festival. A time of celebration, fun competition, and plenty of tasting.

“In southwest Oklahoma, everyone thinks about summer, they think about fresh tomatoes,” said Edward Legako, M.D, President of SWOK Growers Association.

The tomato plant is a berry-type fruit, but is also known as a “culinary vegetable,” with more than 7,500 varieties. The annual Tomato Festival at the Lawton’s Farmer’s Market draws crowds from surrounding areas.

“Everyone loves to grow a few tomatoes in their back yard, whether they’ve got 1 plant, or whether they’ve got 4 plants.”

Lawton pediatrician Edward Legako is the President of the SW Growers Association. He says we grow some great tomatoes in southwest Oklahoma. So, that’s why Lawton Farmers Market decided to have a festival each year to highlight the tomato

“It’s really gotten to be quite popular each year and it seems to have grown every year. Because here again, people want fresh tomatoes. So, they know that is the week that we’re highlighting it. So, we’re trying to get as many tomatoes there for people to buy and enjoy.”

He says that the festival benefits everyone by promoting healthy eating.

“If they come to the market, and they buy fruits and vegetables, then they’re going to need to cook those fruits and vegetables.”

There will be competitions for best in show-which requires 3 tomatoes, best tasting tomato, and the ugliest tomato. Dr. Legako says you don’t have to be an expert farmer to enter, you just have to have grown it yourself.

“We’ve had people who have only raised one tomato plant, yet they’ve produced the best tasting tomato. So, we give cash prizes for that, and we’ll have judging there for best tasting tomato, and all the other categories.”

Last year was the first time they had a salsa making contest, and Dr. Legako says it was a hit.

“Last year we had over 30 applicants that came in a brought their salsas and it was quite fun to see all the different kinds. Because everyone thinks that they have the next salsa that is going to be the Pace, or the one that’s going to be marketable nationwide… We have both a kid’s division and an adult’s division. And we like kids to learn how to cook, so we encourage them to make salsa and bring in their salsa because we’ll give a cash prize for the winners.”

Even if you have no plants to bring, Dr. Legako says the festival is a great way to get out of the house, and you might just learn something while you’re there.

“Regardless whether you grow 1 tomato or hundreds, we love to have people bring in their favorite tomatoes. And we also can hopefully teach them something about the different varieties. And teach them something if they’re interested in the future of growing tomatoes.”

Lawton’s 6th annual tomato festival is on July 8th from 8:00 a.m. to noon at the Great Plains Coliseum. The Festival is free. However, they do rely on donations to put the festival on. All entries for the competitions should be brought in by 9:00 that morning to be registered. Judging begins at 9:30, and the awards will be given out at 10:00. If you are entering a salsa, you must bring at least 12 ounces for tasting. They will also be selling this year’s tomato festival t-shirt at the market. For more information, or to become a sponsor you can call 580-365-4256.

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