The First Ripe Tomato in Champion Contest has been won!  Larry Casey of Rt. 2 brought his beautiful bright red, baseball size tomato into Henson’s Store on Tuesday afternoon, June 30, and shared with Judges Betty Henson and Wilda Moses.  Casey did not know the name of the variety but says he generally grows Rutgers.  This was just a pretty plant that he had picked up over in Cabool early in the season.  The tomato had a nice firm heart and a rich tangy taste, sweet and juicy.  It was firm enough to cut nicely, but definitely perfectly ripe.  A little salt and the judges were transported to tomato heaven.

        For his trouble, Casey was awarded a Certificate of Champion Achievement, a $10.00 gift certificate from the Plant Place in Norwood, 6 tickets (valued at $5.00) for the quilt drawing to be held August 15, at the Skyline Volunteer Fire Department Picnic, two dozen canning jar lids (1 each regular and wide mouth) and an old fruit jar.  The fruit jar was made in 1966 in Canada.  It is a brand called “Crown” and it has a crown embossed on the side.  It has a glass lid with a zinc rim.  He was pleased with his loot and Champions can probably look for him to try for the prize next year as well.

        Casey has been gardening he said for 70 years, though he is just 73 years old.  He is a retired welder and pipe fitter who moved to Champion ten years ago.  He grows a big garden and is a great promoter of purple-hulled peas and had some seed to share.  He said that he had just returned from a trip to Houston, Texas where the Local Pipe Fitters Union, to which he had belonged for 50 years, had honored him for his achievements.  He said that he came back to find his garden overgrown with weeds and two big tomatoes hiding in them, just about ready to eat.  He and his friend Debbie Newland had finished off the first one before they brought the prizewinner down to Henson’s Store.

        Last year the prize was awarded on July 12th to Champion Louise Hutchison.  She and her daughter, Debbie Maynard, granddaughter Amy McGuire and great granddaughter, Hanna Rose McGuire happened into the store just as the judging was over.  Louise and Larry had a few minutes to visit about gardening.  She says that her garden has been suffering from the drought.  Larry complained about deer eating his sweet potatoes.  Louise said that she had heard that if a person cut up a bar of Irish Spring Soap and sprinkled it around that it was a good deterrent for the deer.  Larry thinks he will try it.  It is a Champion thing that gardeners are willing to share their seeds, information and tomatoes!