When the invitation came to appear at the Warren Pink Tomato Festival, I wanted to decline but—as the reigning Miss Arkansas-- if my calendar showed I was “free” on that day, I had no choice but say
“yes”. It was an all-day event that started with an all-tomato luncheon.
I’ve loathed tomatoes since childhood, when my always-angry mother forced more-than-a-few down my throat.
She did the same with watermelon and, even today, I can’t stand the look or smell of watermelon.
I arrived at the luncheon and tried to smile while looking at the luncheon’s abundant display
of drinks, appetizers, the main course, rolls, biscuits, a huge choice of vegetables and the wildest concoction of desserts---I'd ever seen. Just as I’d feared, everything on the menu contained tomatoes. Tomatoes were everywhere; tomatoes were
mixed in, around, and on top of everything to eat and drink.
The idea of a chocolate chip/tomato cookie still makes me gag. I feel nauseous even talking about the tomato juice/ice cream dessert covered
with whipped cream and grated tomatoes. That was a horrible day for me. It was a very-hot day and I desperately needed to eat and drink something to sustain me. There was absolutely nothing I could eat or drink that hadn’t been kissed by a tomato!
After lunch and before the nighttime event when I would crown Miss Pink Tomato, I still had to endure a parade. The parade director found me standing-ready to climb aboard the only convertible in the parade area—a
red corvette. I listened as the director explained that the reigning Miss Pink Tomato’s convertible had engine trouble so she would be riding atop the red corvette originally assigned to me. He urged me not to be disappointed because he’d found
a much-more impressive way for me to lead the parade.
One of the Town’s professional horse-trainers was donating his prized stallion for me to ride in the Parade. In fact, for the first time in Tomato
Festival History, a Miss Arkansas would be leading the historic parade on a horse!
What?!?!?!? I knew nothing about horses! The only horse I'd ever ridden was wooden and bolted to the floor of the Merry-Go-Round!
I appreciated horses as beautiful animals—but always from a safe distance!
I easily remembered the time a couple of show-horses were seriously injured in an Arkansas parade because they weren’t
correctly “shoe-ed” for brick streets. So...there I was… all dressed-up in a fancy gown, high heels, crown and gloves, expecting to ride on the back of a flashy convertible, and now…was being told--for the time in my life--I
was going to ride side-saddle on a very tall stallion who'd be walking on this all-brick Main Street. Without hesitating, I told the Parade Director he'd be riding the horse because I intended to walk in the Parade(in front of the horse, of course).
It had been an extremely-long day with temperatures in the nineties. I’d been photographed--smiling--in baking-hot tomato fields; smiling-- while being starved to death at an all-tomato luncheon and now--I’d
reached my limit; I was no-longer smiling.
The Parade Committee had to start the parade a little late that afternoon because the current Miss Arkansas was being a little "difficult" but--- everything ended
on a happy note.
As originally planned, I led the parade sitting on the back of the red Corvette---Miss Pink Tomato followed (at the end of parade)riding a new John Deer Tractor--- and my almost-new friend
“Trigger” got to go home, back to the farm.