Unseen Heroes celebrate the region’s roots with Sacratomato Week & Festival

Tomatoes
Sacratomato Week runs June 18-23 and will culminate with a festival at Sutter’s Fort. (Sacramento State/Jayla Lee)

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.

Roshaun Davis of Unseen Heroes
Unseen Heroes founders Roshaun (pictured) and Maritza Davis are behind some of the region’s most popular events and are producing the Sacratomato Festival. (Sacramento State/Jayla Lee)

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!

 

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From princess to P.I.: Actress/alumna set to shine in new BET series

Danielle_Mone_Truitt
(Photo courtesy of Danielle Moné Truitt)

Danielle Moné Truitt is a self-described late bloomer when it comes to acting. When she arrived at Sac State as a psychology major, the longtime singer had no idea she might want to be an actress as well, until a professor prompted her to join her first play.

But when Truitt set foot on the Sac State stage for the first time, everything changed. “Opening night I walked out, and I was like, ‘Yep, this is what I want to do,'” she says.

That moment ultimately led her to a brighter spotlight than she had ever imagined: Next February, Truitt (’05, Theatre Arts) will play the lead role in the new BET series Rebel, accompanied by an all-star cast and crew.

After more than a decade honing her craft in Hollywood, performing around the country, and raising a family, Truitt’s big break was a long time – and a lot of hard work – in the making.

“I’ve been here 10 years and I have a husband, I have two children, and I got a chance to grow a family in the midst of pursuing my career,” Truitt says, “and it just feels great to know know that you can have it all if you just don’t give up.”

Rebel stars Truitt as a former Oakland police officer who turned private investigator after her brother was murdered. The series is the brainchild of Academy Award-nominated director John Singleton, best known for the groundbreaking Boyz n the Hood as well as blockbusters like 2 Fast 2 Furious and Four Brothers.

Some of the industry’s top stars will share the screen with Truitt, including Giancarlo Esposito (Breaking Bad), Mykelti  Williamson (Forrest Gump), and Method Man (The Wire).

“The fact that (Singleton) cast actors like Giancarlo Esposito and Mykelti Williamson around me has just given me opportunities to raise my game, because they’re heavyweights in the acting field,” Truitt says. “It’s just been a dream come true.”

Truitt has traveled a long road to realizing that dream. After moving to Los Angeles to pursue acting full time after graduating in 2005, she quickly found out that she had to develop a thick skin to succeed in Tinseltown.

“L.A. is a beast in itself,” she says. “There are so many people telling you ‘no’ on a regular basis, there’re so many people judging how you look. … You have to really have self-esteem, and you have to really have a community of people that love and support you in your career in order to make it.”

Disney fans especially may already be familiar with Truitt, though they may not  know it: In 2009’s The Princess and the Frog, she did the video referencing for the film’s animated protagonist, Princess Tiana. She lent her movements and expressions to bring the character to life.

That opportunity opened the door to a number of guest- and co-starring roles – including on shows like Fox’s Mulaney – in addition to a host of other auditions.

All the while, Truitt continued to work on her own material, started a family, kept auditioning – babies in tow – and even starred in a one-woman show, 3 Black Girl Blues, which she performed on both coasts.

No matter how committed she was to her dream, she simply refused to put her life on hold, and it paid off: This past December, she auditioned for the starring role on Rebel, and after long months of waiting, found out in April she landed the part.

“One thing to keep in mind is that there’re no guarantees,” she says. “You cannot handcuff yourself to a timeline. For me, I got married and I could’ve said, ‘I’m not having kids until I make it.’ That would’ve meant that I still wouldn’t have kids right now, because it took me 10 years.

“This industry is so hard to navigate. And the best thing to do is to stay open to life and take it as it comes.”

 

Behind the lens: Meeting one of Sacramento’s favorite Instagrammers

Xing Liu
(Photo courtesy of Xing Liu)

If you’ve ever been to a Sacramento event – Gather Nights, Concerts in the Park, or even just an evening at Temple Coffee – chances are you’ve seen local photographer and Sac State alumnus Xing Liu plying his creative genius.

The 32-year-old engineer-turned-photographer is one of Sacramento’s busiest and most popular personalities behind the camera. Highsnobiety lists him among the top six photographers you need to follow. This weekend, Sacramento State welcomes him as our Weekend Guest Instagrammer, and he’s ready to show off the best and brightest spots on campus through the lens of his Fujifilm X-T1.

Originally from Taishan, China, Liu moved  to the United States in 2002 to pursue higher education. He graduated from Sacramento State in 2011 with a master’s degree in software engineering and is now a senior software engineer at SymSoft Solutions.

But after work, Liu lives his true passion as @caliallstaring on Instagram, with more than 23.6K followers and countless collaborations with artists across the region.

Liu’s photographs reflect a deep love for the Sacramento community, giving viewers infinite reasons, big or small, to brag about their city. Whether it’s a flower field, local business, or just some really great ice cream, Liu makes them glow:

In 2012, he found his first inspirational subject: flowers. Since then, his passion has evolved from petals to people, as he evokes beauty and strives to capture the mood and expression of human subjects in various settings.

Many have asked – as evidenced in his ever-flowing comments section on Instagram – how does he do it? In addition to providing photo tips in many of his captions, Liu always offers up encouragement and advice to photographers:

“Try different angles, and follow where the light is,” says Liu. “For portraits, make sure the background is clean enough for the subject to stand out.”

And while Liu’s subjects surely do stand out, so does he.

Be sure to follow @SacState and @caliallstaring on Instagram this Fourth of July weekend for the very special takeover.