FAIRFIELD — Don Friedman paused along the Texas Street sidewalk Friday afternoon and watched Alex Janis roll around in a large plastic bubble in what looked like a giant kiddie wading pool.
“I think it’s cool,” he said, as he watched the 7-foot-diameter bubble roll around and around in the 30-foot by 30-foot pool filled with around 8 inches of water.
While Friedman thought it was fun from afar, a previous gyroscope ride in Santa Cruz left him nauseated. He said he’d pass on the bubble.
“It would be Santa Cruz all over again,” he said, laughing.
But Friedman said he’d be back both Saturday and Sunday to sample all the tomatoes at the 22nd annual Tomato Festival, which will be in full swing both days on Texas Street between Union Avenue and Taylor Street. The event is presented by the Fairfield Main Street Association.
Setup for the festival began Friday as Friedman took a walk downtown with some of the more time-consuming venues getting an afternoon start.
Janis, 18, his stepbrother Nick McGreevy, also 18, and their father, Rick McGreevy, arrived in Fairfield from Sacramento to set up both their water rides. The two giant pools take about 3,000 gallons of water each and if filled with a water hose can take up to five hours each to fill, Rick McGreevy said.
No need for a garden hose, however. The Fire Department – retired Battalion Chief Bill Smith and a few Explorers from Explorer Post 8651 – were on hand with a couple of fire hoses to fill up the water events, including the All About Scuba pool that owner Kris Hanna and some friends were setting up not far from McGreevy. The 20-foot by 40-foot pool is filled to a bit over 4 feet deep and gives festival attendees a chance to experience the basics of scuba diving. Setting up is lengthy, taking about six to seven hours.
“This is great . . . it really is,” Hanna said of the festival. “I actually enjoy doing all this. With all the work that it is, it’s great to see the excitement.”
Up and down the street, as the afternoon wore on, people set up the entertainment stages, the seating canopies, the beer area and the Solano Community College men’s basketball team set up the 60-foot-long Tomato Alley tent on the grass on the corner of Jefferson and Texas streets. It was no easy feat in the heat.
“I’ve been here since 1 p.m.,” basketball player Tahron Morrison said as he sat in front Starbucks with several team members. “It was hot so it was pretty hard.”
Scott Tonnesen and Brian Tubis, Fairfield Main Street Association board members, spent the afternoon chalking three blocks of Texas Street to mark the vendor locations. They made the mundane lively as they joked around about straight lines – or lack thereof – while doing the job tasked to them by Margaret Manzo, the association’s executive director.
“We humor ourselves,” Tubis said, laughing.
Shortly after 6 p.m. the stars of the weekend arrived – at 8 mph the tomatoes came in via tractor from Tenbrink Farms in Suisun Valley. Along with the tomatoes came a variety of other edibles such as fruit, red onions and walnuts.
Linda Tenbrink said a total of about 3 tons of tomatoes will be delivered by the end of the weekend – the bulk being from Tenbrink but other local growers pitch in to fill any voids in varieties. More tomatoes will also come in both Saturday and Sunday mornings – straight off the vines.
“We just keep picking them and selling them,” Tenbrink said.
Manzo said about 200 varieties of tomatoes are brought in and between 20 to 30 at any given time are available for sampling in the free Tomato Alley. Varieties rotate regularly, she said.
Manzo and her group spent the week before putting in long hours. She said putting on the event is a “tremendous” amount of work. Planning in earnest began in March or April but about two weeks before the event it was a lot of late nights and early mornings for Manzo and others.
All told, about 100 people coming and going make up a large team of volunteers who help keep the festival rolling smoothly through the weekend.
This year the number of vendors exceeded the association’s goal, as did the sponsorship goal – by about $2,500, Manzo said.
“I think it speaks well of our organization and the festival,” she said. “People want to support it.”
Since it’s free entry with no gates, Manzo said they don’t track visitor numbers. But she said that based on conversations with regular vendors, it’s estimated that an average of 25,000 people visit the festival.
The two-day festival runs from 11:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. Saturday and noon to 6 p.m. Sunday.
Reach Susan Winlow at 427-6955 or [email protected] Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/swinlowdr.