For 13 years, the Bradford Research Center has provided the Columbia area community an opportunity to taste a variety of tomatoes and peppers, as well as a chance to learn which of those varieties could work in their own home gardens.
This year's event was no different, as more than 1,000 attendees tried about 150 varieties of tomatoes and about 75 varieties of peppers. The Tomato Festival — which took place Thursday — also featured local restaurants, vegetable and fruit sales, activities for children, milk tastings and tours of the Research Center.
"This year's turnout was absolutely fantastic," Superintendent Andrew Biggs said. "Once things got started, there was a steady crowd of tomato and pepper aficionados right up until the end of the festival."
The tomato varieties included everything from heirlooms, hybrids, cherries to ground cherries. The pepper tastings featured some of the hottest peppers in the world. Attendees scored each variety on a scale of one to five, with one being a tomato or pepper.
The Center will gather the results and publicize them at a later date.
The tomato tastings were so popular the majority of the selections were completely gone by the end of the event.
"Usually we've got some leftover tomatoes by the end of the Tomato Festival, but this year's crowd tasted just about everything that we had available," Biggs said.
The milk tasting, with varieties provided by Shatto Milk, was popular with kids and adults alike. There was also a coloring area for kids, as well as a corn maze to walk through. The local restaurants, which included Jose Jalapenos and Broadway Brewery, among others, were housed in the John Poehlmann Educational Center.
There were three wagon tours through the Bradford Research Center, both of which were packed.
"We had only really planned on providing two tours, but people were loaded up on the wagons waiting for a third, so we gave the people what they wanted," Biggs said.