Melon Fest ends today

Published 9:34 pm Friday, July 31, 2009

MURFREESBORO — If you have waited until the last minute to enjoy the Roanoke-Chowan area’s largest event, your time has arrived.

The 24th annual North Carolina Watermelon Festival ends its four-day run today (Saturday) in Historic Murfreesboro.

Those planning on attending today’s festivities should be prepared to enjoy a full slate of activities. As is tradition, Saturday is the festival’s biggest day, one beginning at 7 a.m. with a pancake breakfast at Murfreesboro Baptist Church and ending with the Castaways Band performing from 8-11 p.m. on the main stage.

In-between is the state’s largest agricultural parade (10 a.m. on Main Street), a 5K road race, the crowning of the 2009 Watermelon Princess, the selection of Little Mr. and Miss Farmer, watermelon eating and seed spitting contests, a Guitar Hero contest, amusement rides, a full afternoon/early evening line-up of entertainment (bands, clogging groups and solo artists) and a huge display of fireworks (9:15 p.m.) For those looking to satisfy their hunger pains, a food court, featuring a wide range of goodies, will be open throughout the day and evening. Also, be sure to visit the main tent where free slices of delicious, homegrown watermelons will be served.

And don’t forget to browse through an area on the festival grounds featuring a wide assortment of arts and crafts. There are plenty of bargains to find on Saturday.

Today’s activities also include an appearance by Kensley Leonard, the 2009 North Carolina Watermelon Queen. She is the daughter of Barry and Kay Leonard of Southern Pines and will be attending North Carolina State University where she plans to double major in communication studies and psychology through the College of Humanities and Social Sciences at NCSU.

Other queens and princesses from various festivals throughout North Carolina also traditionally attend Saturday’s edition of the Watermelon Festival.

Despite a wet start, the Watermelon Festival got underway on Wednesday. An afternoon rain gave way to clearing skies for the 5 p.m. opener, but another round of the “wet stuff” began to fall just after the 7 p.m. opening ceremony. That brief period of rain coupled with what appeared to be another thunderstorm brewing west of town led to the cancelation of the night’s featured musical act – the Craig Woolard Band.

“We felt bad for those who had showed up to hear the band, but the stage was wet and we didn’t feel comfortable from a safety standpoint to allow the band to play, given the fact of all the electrical cords on a wet stage and the threat of a thunderstorm on its way,” said Kay Mitchell Thomas, co-chair of the Watermelon Festival Committee.

As it turned out, the rain never came.

“Business picked-up after that over in the midway (amusement rides) area,” Thomas said. “It was so busy that the crowd wanted to stay after out 11 p.m. closing time.”

Thomas added that the MELON (Bingo) game did well as well as the annual Murfreesboro Chamber of Commerce barbecue dinner.

“I thought the crowd was good, considering the weather,” she noted.

At the opening ceremony, the Festival Committee honored two of its own – Alan Harris of Conway and Brenda Watson of Severn. Harris was signaled out for his work on a new element at this year’s festival, a watermelon archway. Watson was praised for her hard work on organizing this year’s Watermelon Festival parade.

This year’s theme is “Where Hearts Meet.” Not only does the festival serve as a reunion for family and friends, event organizers have learned that new romances have been formed when couples met at the festival.

Apparently, those who missed out on Wednesday’s opening festivities opted to attend on Thursday where a large crowd was noted throughout the festival grounds.