HOOPER — This weekend’s Tomato Days celebration marks the event’s 87th year.
According to Hooper Farm Bureau documents, in 1925 it was a one-day event and was the idea of Hooper resident Lee Fowers, president of the farm bureau.
He wanted the community to have an end-of-summer day to relax, have fun and show off their months of work on the farm. The first year was called Hooper’s Labor Day Celebration.
Exhibits and events included farm and garden produce, a flower show, horse-pulling contests, a baseball game, chariot races and a rodeo.
Other than the tomatoes, the main event for the first celebration was the rodeo, and even though Hooper didn’t have facilities at that time to carry out a rodeo, they improvised.
They rounded up about 20 steers, used mostly 2-year old draft colts for the bareback rides and work horses for saddle broncos wherever they could find a farmer who was willing to allow his horse to be used.
The celebration was a great success and became an annual event.
Hooper had become famous for its “fine flavored tomatoes” and, in 1932, the city decided to recognize the popularity of the tomato and change the name to Hooper Tomato Days celebration, according to the farm bureau historical information.
As years went on, improvements were made to the rodeo grounds and with the onset of modern transportation, the livestock was trucked from Wellsville to the Hooper arena.
Over the years, a variety of activities were added to the celebration and it was decided to add a queen contest. Florence Spaulding was chosen as the first-ever queen of the celebration.
According to the history documents, “not to be out done, the rodeo committee had girls sponsored to be chosen and known as the Rodeo Queen.” Ardell Fowers was chosen as the first Rodeo Queen.
Even though factories are no longer harvesting and canning tomatoes in Hooper, residents and farmers are still growing them in their gardens and on their farms and are displaying them at the Farmers Market which this year will be located south of the park.