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THE 48TH ANNUAL GREAT TOMATO FESTIVAL
“What if you don’t like tomatoes? I mean, it’s not like this is the great cotton candy festival. Everyone likes cotton candy. I bet half the people on the planet don’t even like tomatoes,” Lin said as we made our way through the crowd.
“Everyone in this town likes tomatoes,” I said.
“That’s not true. That can’t possibly be true because I don’t like tomatoes,” Lin said as she took a flyer from a guy wearing a red jacket. “Thanks,” she said with a smile. I noticed her teeth were kind of pinkish.
“Maybe not fresh, raw tomatoes, but even you like tomato candy,” I said.
“I’d eat dog food candy if there were such a thing.” Lin stopped in the middle of the crowd. “Wait. I just had an idea. We should make candy for dogs. We’d be RICH!”
I was thinking that Lin might be onto something, when I heard the blip sound in my ear that told me someone had just turned on their SpyZoom Invisible Communicator. I could tell by the expression on Lin’s face that hers had just blipped, too.
“Hey, Vicky. Is that you?” I asked. To the people standing around us it looked like I was talking to myself, but I didn’t care. I knew better.
“Yeah. Where are you guys?” Vicky chirped in our ears.
“We’re by the tomato juice dunking booth,” Lin said. “And look at that. They are looking for volunteers.”
“Ha ha. Very funny, Lin. You’re not going to talk me into that today. I’m the Grand Marshal for the Tomato Parade. I got my hair done, I’m wearing a brand-new outfit, and I’m going to be on stage in, like, three minutes. Which brings me to my first question. Where are you guys and why aren’t you HERE WITH ME?” Vicky said without taking a breath.
“We’re on our way. It’s just really busy out here. We’ll be there soon,” I said.
“Do you have your tickets?” Vicky asked.
“Yup. Your mom’s assistant dropped them off at my house this morning. Thanks, Vicky,” Lin said, then rolled her eyes. The Invisible Communicators are pretty awesome, but they aren’t sensitive enough to pick up eye rolls.
“See you soon, Vicky. Have fun today,” I said, then tapped my earbud, turning off the communicator. “Come on. We gotta run.”
Lin and I darted through the crowd outside the big stadium in the center of town. The famous Ramp-O-Saurus, the largest skateboard jump in the world, towered above everything, casting its long-necked shadow down on the festival. The line at the stadium was pretty big, but we had special guest tickets, so we got right in. A nice man wearing a tomato hat, a Ruby Girls concert T-shirt, and thick-rimmed glasses took us to our seats, then gave us each a towel covered in red, purple, and pink sequins.
“What are these for?” Lin shouted at the usher.
“You’re in the splash zone. The Grand Marshal is going to smash the opening ceremony tomato. You’ll be glad you had the towel, believe me,” he yelled back with a smile. “Enjoy the concert.”
Music pumped through speakers as big as a semitruck, and the crowd was singing along, dancing, and shouting so loud I could barely hear myself think. I leaned over to Lin, holding the sparkling towel in my hands. “This isn’t going to dry anything. It’s covered in glitter,” I shouted.
“I guess you can use it like a shield.” Lin was holding the tiny towel in front of her face. “Or you could stuff it in your ears so you don’t have to hear the concert.”
“I think you’d need more than a towel to do that. Maybe some tomato-flavored bubble gum,” I yelled.
“Why are we here anyway? I can’t stand the Ruby Girls,” Lin screamed.
“We’re not here for the music,” I shouted as hundreds of brightly colored laser lights began to flicker on the stage. The crowd went wild, shouting and jumping up and down so loud that the stadium began to rock. I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t exciting. Okay, I’m not what you’d call a Ruby Girls groupie, but I’ve heard their music and it’s hard not to want to dance along when there is so much energy bouncing around at a live concert. A booming voice rumbled through the massive speakers. “Ladies and gentlemen. Tomato lovers around the world. Welcome to the Forty-eighth Annual Great Tomato Festival.”
The mob of tomato fans went bonkers, and the voice continued. “As you know, one lucky person is elected as the Grand Marshal of the Tomato Parade, but that isn’t the end of their duties. That lucky person also gets to kick off the concert by smashing the ceremonial first tomato!”
More cheering and roaring by the thousands of excited people surrounding me. Lin and I had been let in on the secret, but the rest of them had no idea who this year’s Grand Marshal was, and they were cheering for the announcement. The crowd only grew louder as a platform, covered in tiny, shining mirrors that bounced rainbow-colored reflections all around, lowered from the ceiling. Our newest adventure partner was facing away from the crowd, holding a huge mallet over her shoulder.
“Time to meet our Grand Marshal. Join us in welcoming Victoria Van-Varbles,” the announcer said, and everyone went nutso. I looked over at Lin and even she was yelling and shouting for Vicky.
Copyright © 2019 by Dustin Hansen