HANOVER, VA (WWBT) – This weekend tens of thousands of people are expected to attend the 32nd annual Tomato Festival at Pole Green Park in Mechanicsville. The festival staples are the same, but this year, there are some changes to parking and traffic flow.
The Tomato Festival is the largest spectator event in Hanover County. What started as a small fire department fundraiser more than 30-years-ago now draws in at least 40,000 people, and as this festival continues to grow in popularity so does the traffic along Pole Green Road. The sheriff's office asks for patience and common sense.
"If you are actually just traveling through, we would request that you use 360 as an alternate," said Lt. Kenny Epling with the Hanover Sheriff's Office.
Traffic flow is always an issue, and this year, there's a new solution that aims to cut wait time to get in and out of the festival in half.
"The exit will actually be one lane exiting and two lanes entering the park. At any point where we feel that there's more people exiting the park than entering, we will have two exit lanes and one entry lane," said Epling.
Homeowners along Tate Lane are happy the solution didn't wind up involving them. Earlier this year, controversy erupted when the Board of Supervisors decided to allow folks to travel along the private gravel road during the Tomato Festival.
Residents were worried about the increased traffic. Now, instead, the county has made a makeshift road inside the park using orange fencing. It allows easier access to the parking area, and Tate Lane will only be open to residents and emergency vehicles. The parking area has also grown.
"We have access to more parking. We have doubled the number of shuttles, so folks that want to come out that may not be able to walk long distance, we can get you from point A to point B quickly," said Greg Sager with Hanover County Parks and Rec.
Emergency workers are gearing up to deal with what they describe as a city within a county by stationing fire trucks and ambulances inside the park. Admission to the festival is free. It starts at Pole Green Park at 9 a.m.