14th annual Tomato Art Fest unites Nashville tomato enthusiasts

Photo by Connor Burnard / Assistant Lifestyles Editor

Nashville’s unique and eccentric late-summer Tomato Art Fest took over the Five Points neighborhood in East Nashville for the 14th consecutive year Friday and Saturday. With an estimated count of more than 60,000 attendants, the one-of-a-kind festival hosted plenty of tomato-related festivities. 

The two days of fun and art were filled with dozens of activities, including various live music acts, an early morning 5K, a Bloody Mary competition, a pet fashion show, a Guinness World Record official attempt at the record for the “largest gathering of people dressed as fruit/vegetables” and a large parade in which Mayor Megan Barry participated.

The festival was founded in 2004 by Bret and Meg MacFadyen, the owners of Art and Invention Gallery, a unique art gallery on Woodland Street in East Nashville. Meg MacFadyen said that the fest began when she hosted a summer art show to celebrate tomato season that gained a quick and unexpected popularity.

“We did this show, and for some reason that I will never know… a thousand people came, and a lot of them were wearing costumes,” MacFadyen said. “And then, we did it again, and each year, it grew by double.”

The streets of the Five Points neighborhood, centered around the intersection of Woodland Street and 11th Street, were closed off to traffic and completely filled with booths of art vendors and local organizations, stores and restaurants.

Artist Michael Terra, one of many exhibitors, said that the unique atmosphere of the festival distinguished it from other art shows he’s done.

“I enjoyed the crowd… people were happy,” Terra said. “There’s a lot of joy here, and that joy really shows up and I love being a part of that.”

The official Tomato Art Fest 2017 T-shirts were made by Hip Hues, a local DIY screen printing shop that recently partnered with Tomato Art Fest.

“It’s such a local neighborhood festival that everybody loves, and we like to bring an artistic aspect to it where people actually get to try out (screen printing) and see it,” said Tracy Dunn of Hip Hues.

Turnip Green Creative Reuse, a pay-what-you-can donation-based art shop and gallery on Woodland Street, offered art supplies to festival-goers to create their own tomato-related attire for the festival. Iris Engel, an employee at Turnip Green, said that the Tomato Art Fest and benefits the store greatly every year, and vice versa.

“The Tomato Fest is a really amazing local festival started by local artists, for local artists,” Engel said. “We get a lot of foot traffic from people that want to create things and we have the ability to supply them with affordable materials.”

East Nashville natives Tessa Hovan-Bartolos and her mother, Dana Hovan, have been going to the annual tomato-themed gatherings for over a decade. They said that the festival is a great social experience and it is constantly evolving along with the city it takes place in.

“It’s really cool getting to hang out and see all the cool things in Nashville that everyone’s doing… it brings out a certain community of people that’s really involved in doing awesome stuff, and getting to see them all in one place is fun,” Hovan-Bartolos said.

For more information on the Tomato Art Fest, click here.

To contact Lifestyles Editor Tayhlor Stephenson, email lifestyles@mtsusidelines.com.

For more updates, follow us at www.mtsusidelines.com, on Facebook at MTSU Sidelines and on Twitter/Instagram at @Sidelines_Life.

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