Younger generations may not be aware, but Sacramento has a long history with tomatoes – so much so that decades ago, the city was nicknamed “The Big Tomato.” There was even a proposal to paint the giant water tower along Interstate 5 in South Sacramento to resemble a big red berry.
Fast-forward to the present, and that history is more than enough reason to throw a party.
On Monday, July 18, the third annual Sacratomato Week kicks off as a six-day love letter to all things tomato. Hosted by the Midtown Business Association and centered in the city’s Sutter District, the week features the area’s best restaurants and nightlife – including Biba, Red Rabbit and Paragary’s – boasting tomato-themed menus. The week culminates with the Sacratomato Festival at Sutter’s Fort on Saturday, July 23.
When there’s a big celebration of local culture highlighting the people and amenities that make a particular area special, it should come as no surprise that Unseen Heroes are behind it. Since 2008, founders (and Sac State alums) Maritza and Roshaun Davis have been building Sacramento’s cultual identity one epic experience at a time. The couple are behind some of Sacramento’s most popular events – Gather: Oak Park, the Midtown Farmers Market, GOOD: Street Food + Design Market – and have branded and marketed some of midtown’s hottest businesses.
When it comes to commemorating something special, albeit a bit quirky, about Sacramento’s historical identity, the Heroes are a natural fit.
“Our goal for Unseen Heroes and for our city is to show love to our city and to give people a reason to stay, live here, and to be able to find collision spaces to meet one another,” Maritza says.
Sacramento’s history with the tomato goes back to the turn of the 20th century. River levees constructed in the early 1900s allowed for a profusion of fruits and vegetables to spring forth from rich Delta soil. By the 1920s, Sacramento was a center of the fruit and vegetable canning industry.
The city was home to some of the world’s largest canneries, including the Libby, McNeill & Libby cannery on Alhambra Boulevard that is now an office park. California Packing Co., known for its Del Monte veggie brand, operated four canneries in the city; and by the mid-1900s, Campbell’s Soup and the Bercut-Richards Cannery had both set up shop in “The Big Tomato.” As a result, though a hub for all things canned, Sacramento became known best for its love of the tomato.
One doesn’t need to know all that – or, frankly, any of it – to enjoy next weekend’s festival. Instead, patrons can sample special food items and drinks from local restaurants, mix something refreshing at the craft Bloody Mary bar, catch cooking demos from the area’s best chefs, and dance to live music within the walls of historic Sutter’s Fort.
It is yet another signature blend of local culture for which Unseen Heroes have come to be known. And if last year and their past events are any indication, it’ll be a lively, crowded affair.
Sacratomato Week runs July 18-23, and the Sacratomato Festival is from 4-8 p.m. July 23 at Sutter’s Fort. Check it out to get a taste of what the Davises are all about, and keep an eye out for their Made at Sac State feature profile and video — coming soon!