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Ripe & Ready: The famous Grainger County Tomato Festival returns

The Grainger County Tomato Festival in Rutledge was back in all its glory on July 23 and 24.

RUTLEDGE, Tenn. — The delicious stars of East Tennessee's summer, the Grainger County tomatoes, are ripe and ready -- and people are ready to celebrate after missing the Tomato Festival last year.

The Grainger County Tomato Festival in Rutledge was back in all its tangy glory on July 23 and 24 after going on hiatus in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

On Friday from 6:30 to 9 p.m., the free festival kicked off with the Grainger County Opry at Rutledge Middle School -- featuring several performances full of laughs and great music. 

The main festival took place Saturday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. in the area around Rutledge Elementary and Middle schools at 7480 Rutledge Pike. Several dozen farms will be contributing to the famous tomato harvest this year, and the event will include more than 100 vendors, music, crafts, clogging, living history and more.

Of course, it wouldn't be a true tomato festival without the annual Tomato Wars! On Saturday at 10 a.m., teams of children and adults took turns battling armed only with Grainger County's famous tomatoes. 

To participate, people needed to sign up at 9 a.m. at the baseball field and bring a signed application and entry fee. All money raised by the event went to help YOKE Youth Ministries in Knoxville.

Following the festival, there was a summer concert Saturday at 7 p.m. featuring award-winning country artist Eddie Montgomery of Montgomery Gentry. Admission is free, and tickets could be picked up at SunFresh Produce, Tennessee Homegrown Tomatoes and the Tennessee Homegrown festival tent.

The event has three rules: Clear bags only, no booze, and bring your own chair! Organizers are also kindly asking people not to smoke on festival grounds because it's a family event.

Pets are welcome to join in on the fun Saturday, and there will also be water stations and misting tents to let people and their critters cool off. 

To learn more about the festival, click here.