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The trophy is made of a glass-blown tomato and winners' names are added to the plaque.

Well ya’ll, it’s hotter than a pepper sprout in these parts, which means The 12th Annual Waverly Tomato Showdown is right around the corner. Save the date, water your tomatoes (or don’t, if that’s your style), put on some linen and come out to The Waverly Local at 1465 Patrick St., Waverly, on Saturday, July 27, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.

According to Waverly lore, the Showdown was born at Wickles Pickles’ World Headquarters 12 years ago when the boys got to debating over who had the best tomatoes and how to grow them. To settle it once and for all, the only way to do it was to make it official – with judges and everything. Wickles rarely does anything low key, so to make the contest an even bigger deal they had a glass-blown tomato trophy made. 

Each year, the winner of the Showdown gets his or her nameplate added to the signature award and gets to keep it for one year – only to return it on the following Showdown day. 

The Famous BLT Bar will be $10 per plate or $6 per sandwich. Great Alabama-based food brands, including Zeigler Bacon, Golden Flake chips and Milos’ Tea Co., are all sponsors again this year. All proceeds benefit the beautification of the Town of Waverly.

I have been honored to emcee the event for the past five years, and believe me, these are not your average tomatoes. I have seen some of the most fancy, most high-falutin heirloom tomatoes you can imagine. They are double fistful big, juicy, bright, with more crinkles than the fattest baby you have ever seen. 

Some of the most delicious and unique ones I have had are Cherokee Purples and Black Krims. Nothing brings me more pleasure than calling out the winning number and seeing the champion’s face light up. The crowd cheers, and the victor’s fellow gardeners fist pump out of victory and respect. I always recognize the winner with an opportunity to say a few words, share how it feels and recount how he or she made it to the Showdown stage. I never expect that these first-place victors are telling the whole truth because any tomato gardener worth his salt is not going to give away his secrets.

Typically, 25 to 40 tomatoes enter the contest each year. It’s tough work on the judges, who clear their palates with crisp bacon and a little cold beer in between samples. 

There is always live music, and this year’s entertainment includes Rollin’ In The Hay and Horace Combs & Co. There will be a classic cakewalk and craft vendors, as well.

If you have a garden and you think you have a shot, I challenge you to throw your hat in the ring. Do not be shy. It’s every ’mater for itself!

THE RULES

1. Tomatoes must be turned in early and judging begins at high noon. 

2. A panel of three judges score the tomatoes based on taste, texture, appearance and overall enjoyment counts twice!

3. No Tommy Toe Tomatoes. I repeat, no Tommys! They have to be large enough for three judges to taste.

After it’s all over, revelers linger around the judge’s table, hoping for a bite off the winning ’mater. 

For more information about entering the Annual Waverly Tomato Showdown, email Rachel@simsfoods.com.

~ Lacey Howell is a recovering English major from Auburn who now lives on Lake Martin, sells real estate, rides horses and loves good wine (but isn’t afraid of boxed wine). She is still bothered that Brad and Angelina broke up. Follow her on Facebook and Instagram @LaceyHowell.