Just in case all y'all non-Southerners were wondering why people down here talk kinda slooowly — a.k.a. the southern drawl, well, c'mon out to the Tomato Art Fest and you'll see why. If your cold-natured impatience can't wait for the answer, here it is: because it's HOT . . . and HUMID. Rapid movement creates heat, and that includes rapid tongue flapping. One should be cautioned against equating the elocutionist of the southern drawl with a sluggish intellect, however, for when provided with the uninterrupted opportunity, many will reveal themselves as being raconteurs of the highest order with intellects sharper than grandpa's pocket knife.
Our regional hallmark is, indeed, an evolutionary response to triple-digit heat coupled with 100-percent humidity. Concurrent with the evolution of our provincial patois is the development of manners. The genteel disposition is well met: greeting strangers as friends. This neighborly approach can, at first, be off-putting to someone who hails from a harsher clime, but in the end even the most callous of urban dwellers tend to melt under its warmth.
Unfortunately, southern manners tend to remain in the driveway. Perhaps it's some subconscious awareness of our collective cultural angst over some really bad karma that becomes manifest; whatever the case, there seems to be an inordinate amount of road-rage inhabiting southern drivers.
Which is one of the reasons (no cars) why the Tomato Art Fest displays our better tendencies. Another element on display is our world-renowned Southern Hospitality. When it's really, really hot, sharing a nice tall glass of iced tea or a mint julep with a stranger from north of the Mason-Dixon line makes much more sense than getting worked up over regional squabbles from many years ago. Besides, even the one half of the Tomato Art Fest brain trust, Brett MacFadyen, is from up north. Like many transplants from the North, he's now an honorary Southerner.
All it really takes to become an honorary Southerner is recognizing the special qualities that make the South . . . well, THE SOUTH. The MacFadyens have done this and then some. As a matter of fact, like the mint julep, they've concocted an event that has a quintessentially southern feel: inclusive and welcoming, casual and laid-back, entertaining, self-effacing, humorous, neighborly, and HOT.
Or, to put it more succinctly, it's a festival that brings together the fruits and the vegetables by honoring its namesake: The Tomato.
A uniter, not a divider.