Festival kicks off Youth Initiative fundraising, draws 1,200

SOME LIKE IT HOT—Judges for the first salsa contest in downtown Rockford were radio personality Andy Rent, Reds Chef Glen Forgie, City Manager Michael Young, Rockford Schools Superintendent Dr. Michael Shibler, and On the Town’s Joanne Bailey-Voorsma.

SOME LIKE IT HOT—Judges for the first salsa contest in downtown Rockford were radio personality Andy Rent, Reds Chef Glen Forgie, City Manager Michael Young, Rockford Schools Superintendent Dr. Michael Shibler, and On the Town’s Joanne Bailey-Voorsma.

The first Heirloom tomato festival drew crowds and helped pack downtown Rockford on Saturday, August 22. In the parking lot of the Promenade, the festival included a salsa contest that tried the taste buds of judges, who had to sample a whopping 34 salsas. Some caused sweat to break out on judges’ faces, but no one dropped out before the tasting was done. “We expected maybe eight entries,” said organizer Meredith Gremel. She said of the judges “I kind of feel sorry

for them.”

SELF PORTRAIT—Sterling Hibdon, Five, of Rockford, had a good time decorating this tomato, which looks like it has a big smile just like him. “He’s having a good time sticking

SELF PORTRAIT—Sterling Hibdon, Five, of Rockford, had a good time decorating this tomato, which looks like it has a big smile just like him. “He’s having a good time sticking

AMBITIOUS UNDERTAKING—Ashley Gremel, Jacob Loader and Shelby Denhof, are all Rockford High School seniors involved in the Youth Initiative program, which provided volunteers for the festival. The group hopes to raise $75,000 this school year to build a Habitat for Humanity home.

AMBITIOUS UNDERTAKING—Ashley Gremel, Jacob Loader and Shelby Denhof, are all Rockford High School seniors involved in the Youth Initiative program, which provided volunteers for the festival. The group hopes to raise $75,000 this school year to build a Habitat for Humanity home.

The event featured tomatoes, games and music, and was a kick-off to fundraising by the Rockford High School Youth Initiative, who provided the volunteers for the children’s activities at the festival. Initiative president Shelby Denhof said this year’s project for the community group is to build a Habitat for Humanity home. The undertaking will require raising an amazing $75,000. Denhof said the group hopes to rehab or build from scratch a house right here in Rockford. Prior to the festival, the organization had already raised $850 by holding pop can drives. “We hope to have half raised by January, begin building by February or March and be done by June, “ Denhof stated.

 

Youth Initiative volunteers helped youngsters with a bag toss, painted faces and helped kids decorate their own heirloom tomatoes to take home. Under a tent Reds offered samples of tomato-based salad, salsa and soup for $2 each. Ingraberg Farm highlighted many varieties of heirloom tomatoes and Earthkeeper Farms was also present with tomatoes. The event was well-attended and organizers were pleased with the turnout. Downtown merchants joined in the fun by offering discounts and deals for those who showed up with tomato-related items. It is planned for the festival to be a yearly event.

 

TOMATO FANS—Terri Lynn Henderson and husband Scott, of Rockford, taste one of three samples provided by Reds on the River. “This is our favorite,” they said of the Caprese, which included home-made mozzarella cheese, balsamic vinegar and tomatoes.

TOMATO FANS—Terri Lynn Henderson and husband Scott, of Rockford, taste one of three samples provided by Reds on the River. “This is our favorite,” they said of the Caprese, which included home-made mozzarella cheese, balsamic vinegar and tomatoes.


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