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Watermelon Festival…the show goes on!!

For the 36th time, those responsible for the North Carolina Watermelon Festival put on one heck of a show!

The volunteers who orchestrated this year’s festival – which completed its four-day run this past Saturday – are to be commended for what they were able to accomplish this year. After months of debate on whether or not to proceed with the 2021 event due to ongoing concerns with the COVID-19 virus, the volunteers met on June 1 where they agreed to move forward with this year’s festival.

While that was welcomed news for the general public who were seeking some sort of outlet to break the gloom and doom of a year’s [plus] worth of bad news, the volunteers had to put together a festival in roughly two months.

Kudos to those listed here for a job well done: Jill Awuni, Charles Aycock, Dell Aycock, Lorrie Barnes, Tim Barnes,

Danny Blowe, Betz Blowe, Suzi Brown, Percy Bunch, Lynette Bunch, Frances Cole, Debbie Cobb, Jamie Dilday, Debbie Edwards, Margaret Gaines, Patty Hale, Don Hiller, Mary Hiller, Scott Parker, Brittany Powell, Steve Sumner, Kay Thomas, Hal Thomas, John Woodard, Sandra Woodard, Wallace Parham, David Griffith, and Darryl Williams.

And a special tip of my cap goes out to Glover Construction Company of Pleasant Hill. They were the title sponsor of this year’s Watermelon Festival Parade held on Saturday morning. The parade was the work of Darryl Williams and the Murfreesboro Chamber of Commerce.

If you looked out your door at around 9 am on Saturday and thought – like me – that the final day of the Melon Fest would be canceled, then – like me – you’d be incorrect.

As I made my way to Murfreesboro on Saturday (just in case they would opt to hold some of the kids’ contests indoors), the skies opened and the rain came. There was even a rumble or two of thunder.

I noted hundreds of parked cars in every nook and cranny along Murfreesboro’s Main Street, but there was a noticeable absence of people standing along the sidewalk.

I picked a place to park – smack dab in front of a long-closed business located on the corner of Main and North Wynn Street. A small overhang on the front of that building would keep the rain off my head – but more importantly, off my camera.

As the clock struck 10 am – the annual 5K Run/Walk participants led off the parade. Those brave souls were already drenched by the time they ran past my photography spot.

But a funny thing then happened during what was forecasted to be an all-day deluge….it stopped raining. It was like the good Lord was saying, “Nope, I’m not going to let it rain on this parade”….and He didn’t.

By the time the parade’s first unit – Murfreesboro Police Chief David Griffith – drove past my spot, the Lord cut off His faucet and it didn’t rain another drop until mid-afternoon. That meant all the popular contests for children – Little Princess, Little Mr. Farmer, and Little Miss Farmer – would be able to be held outdoors. And all those proud parents, grandparents, other family members, and the general public would be able to enjoy those events while staying dry.

Meanwhile, there were a few vendors remaining on the festival grounds. Those spaces were nearly full on Friday, but the majority of the operators opted not to chance Saturday’s gloomy weather forecast. They folded their tents, packed their vehicles, and left. I don’t blame them for making that decision, but the ones who decided to stick it out had the full attention of Saturday’s shoppers.

Ditto for the food vendors who remained open. Lines were long at those spots throughout the entire four-day event. The food vendors offered varied menus…there was something there to please almost any palate.

By 7 pm Saturday, the sun made its long-awaited appearance Murfreesboro….just in time for the popular Pizazz Band to once again close out the Melon Fest as they have done so many times before. Meanwhile, the lights of the Melon Fest Midway beckoned the young and the young at heart to venture over for the carnival atmosphere, which included thrilling rides and games of chance.

Despite the festivities getting off to a damp start on Wednesday, Mother Nature may have tossed a curveball, but the festival did not swing and miss. Instead, large crowds flocked to Murfreesboro on Thursday and Friday….the latter was the largest Friday crowd I’ve ever seen there.

We were all treated to great music: The Main Event Band (who performed Wednesday despite a persistent drizzle), the New Band on the Block, the Martin Terry Band, North Tower, and Pizazz.

We were wowed by the beauty and grace of Anna Young, the 2021 North Carolina Watermelon Queen – who, by the way, is a student at NC State University (Go Wolfpack!!) where she is majoring in Agricultural Science with an Agri-Business Concentration.

But most of all, we are so very lucky to live in an area where a volunteer spirit reigns supreme. Despite being faced with many obstacles, the volunteers responsible for this year’s North Carolina Watermelon Festival overcame COVID and Mother Nature to give us an event that will go down in the history books as one of the most successful ever in its 36 years of existence.

Personally, I can’t wait to see what these volunteers will for an encore on Aug. 3-6, 2022!

Cal Bryant is the Editor of Roanoke-Chowan Publications. Contact him at cal.bryant@r-cnews.com or 252-332-7207.

About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

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