Most longtime East Nashvillians look forward to August every year for one wonderful reason: The annual Tomato Art Fest, a celebration of everyone’s favorite vegetable-ish fruit.
The fest first cropped up in East Nashville in 2004, when Art and Invention owners Meg and Bret MacFadyen launched a tomato-themed art show at their gallery. Now, more than a decade and lots of Nashville growth later, the festival is a multi-date, multifaceted celebration that brings folks from all around Middle Tennessee to the East Side.
There’s lots to take in over the fest’s two days. Tomato Art remains an important part of the festival — Art & Invention’s walls will be covered with tomato-inspired work, and tickets for Friday’s Tomato Art Pre View Party (1106 Woodland) are on sale now.
But the event’s grown well beyond visual art.
Things kick off with Friday’s art preview and a free live music, plus food trucks, games and more.
Saturday brings the full fest, and the list of activities is almost overwhelming, from the general wandering and shopping to the parade, Tomato 5K and a huge array of contests, including a Bloody Mary competition and the always-fun Faux Paw Fashion Show. (Hit the Activities tab on the Tomato Art Fest website for a full look at what’s in store.)
If you’re a Tomato Art Fest vet, you probably already have your game plan. If you’re a newcomer, though, you might benefit from a few Tomato Art Fest pro tips. Here are ours:
Save the fest map to your phone
The festival gets really crowded and a little crazy, so if there are specific things you’d like to hit at specific times, having the fest map on hand really helps. Making a (loose but somewhat organized) game plan with the map beforehand: even better.
Don’t forget the sunscreen
Even if it’s raining. If you’re doing the Tomato Art Fest right, and getting a really good wander in, you’ll get a ton of sun. Fail to plan for it, and come Sunday, you’ll look a lot like the fruit the fest is celebrating.
Keep your mind (and your tastebuds) open
There’s a lot of tomatoey food to be had around the Tomato Art Fest, a lot of it familiar (gazpacho and salsa), some of it less so, like Pied Piper Creamery’s tomato orange cardamom ice cream or Jeni’s’ green tomato sorbet. You may have never felt a draw toward tomato ice cream, but don’t shy away — some of the weirder offerings end up being the best thing you eat all day. The good kind of weird is sort of East Nashville’s thing, so go bold.
Bring the kids — furry and/or human
The Tomato Art Fest makes sure to bake in activities for all types, and that includes the little ones and four-legged friends. Have kids? You probably won’t have to fight hard to get them interested in participating in the Giant Ice Cream Sundae Extravaganza (they’ll build a massive sundae, then eat it). Have a particularly pretty pup? Enter him or her into the Faux Paw Fashion Show, which benefits local rescue organization East C.A.N. (One word of caution: If it’s really hot out, it’s best to leave the pups at home aside of the fashion show, since hot pavement can hurt paws.) And those are just a few of your options.
Plan on spending some cash
The Tomato Art Fest is free to attend, but trust us, you’ll want to set aside some cash to spend. Between the food options and the fantastic collection of vendors (selling everything from clothing to jewelry to housewares), you’ll shop, and stop, and shop some more, and be glad you did.
Go early, stay late
The Tomato Art Festival Parade is ridiculous and fun, and you’ll be bummed to miss it, even if you were kind of hoping to sleep in. (It starts at 9 a.m.) If you’re gonna check out a lot of the vendors (and you definitely want to — see above), it’s going to take you a while, so you’ll need to fit that in, too. Hoping to catch a lot of music? It’ll be going well into the evening. It’s a long day. It’s a great day. Make the most of it, and give the Tomato Art Fest as much of your day as you can spare.
Don’t miss it
Probably the best pro tip we can offer.
Hope to see lots of friends old and new at the Tomato Art Fest this year. If the celebration ends up making you fall in love with East Nashville, get in touch with us — we’d love to help you on your East Nashville house hunt!
Photos by Steve Cross, from the Tomato Art Fest Facebook page
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