Take a stroll down Tomato Alley at Canton’s Mater Fest this weekend

For the last seven years, Canton has celebrated Haywood County’s biggest crop with a festival in its honor. This year, the town’s Mountain Mater Festival has grown from a small celebration of the red jewel of summer to a sizeable small-town festival that drew 10,000 attendees last year.

The 2011 festival is scheduled for Friday and Saturday, August 5 and 6 in downtown Canton.

This year, the lineup of entertainment on the downtown stages will be non-stop, featuring six mountain clogging groups, martial arts demonstrations and music. There will also be a talent competition.

The entertainment this time around will be one of the festival’s highlights, said Gene Monson, a member of Focus On Canton, the civic group that plans the event.

“Entertainment is a big portion of the festival,” said Monson. “We have a very nice stage and it stays busy from the time we open until the time close.”

And then, of course, there are the tomatoes that are the festival’s namesake.

Among the food vendors will be a section called Tomato Alley, where tomato delicacies can find their way into the hands of hungry tomato lovers.

Elsewhere at the festival, vendors will be selling local tomatoes, donated by J.W. Johnson, a tomato packing house in Crusoe.

There will be the annual Mrs. Mater Pageant, a car show and this year, a few new additions will join the Mater Fest family — a motorcycle show and a petting zoo for the younger crowd.

The event is coordinated each year by Focus On Canton, and the group underwrites the cost through merchandise and food sales, along with sponsorships from businesses and individuals in the community.

But after paying out its overhead, the group’s real goal is to put whatever money it can towards helping those in need in Canton.

Mater Fest might be a summer festival, but around the holidays, its impact is felt by those who need it most, said Monson.

“We sponsor families at Christmastime,” said Monson. “We give our entire treasury away at the holidays.”

The festival, he said, is for the people of Haywood County, as an enjoyment in the summertime and a help during the holidays for some who may not get it from other places.

“We try to make the festival as close to free as we possibly can, and to do it for the folks of Haywood County to come and enjoy it and hopefully not be a burden on their pocketbook,” Monson said.


Entertainment line-up

Friday, August 5

• 1 p.m. — The Josh Fields Band

• 3 p.m. — Lisa Price Band

• 3:30 p.m. — Southern Appalachian Cloggers

• 6 p.m. — Talent Contest and Mountain Mater Festival Talent Jubilee

• 8 p.m. — Simple Folks

• 8:30 p.m. — Blue Ridge High Steppers

Saturday, August 6

• 11 a.m. — Fred Riley Academy of Martial Arts

• 12 p.m. — Country Soul

• 1:30 p.m. — Southern Appalachian Cloggers

• 2 p.m. — Hominy Valley Boys

• 3 p.m. — Fines Creek Flat Footers

• 3:30 p.m. — Gray Wolf

• 4:30 p.m. — Smokey Mountain Stompers

• 5 p.m. — Gold

• 6 p.m. — Talent Contest continues

• 8 p.m. — Michelle Leigh

• 8:30 p.m. — Green Valley Cloggers

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