Watermelon Festival celebrates 25th year

Published 9:03 am Tuesday, July 27, 2010

MURFREESBORO — For Percy and Lynette Bunch of Murfreesboro, an idea hatched 25 years ago has evolved into an event they never imagined.

The Bunch family, who still own and operate Murfreesboro Farms, will join an expected crowd numbering in the tens of thousands when this sleepy little Hertford County town nestled on the banks of the Meherrin River plays host to the 2010 North Carolina Watermelon Festival, July 28-31.

In 1986, Percy Bunch – whose main crops on his land included peanuts and watermelons – acted on an idea to have a Watermelon Day in Murfreesboro. Joining forces with others, a parade and small festival, one that lasted just four hours, was held in honor of a young woman from Murfreesboro, Whitney Cuthbertson, who had won the state watermelon queen title.

Over the years, the Bunch family – with plenty of help from a planning committee as well as the Town of Murfreesboro – saw the Watermelon Festival expand by leaps and bounds, now encompassing four full days of food, fun and entertainment.

And, as is always the case, admission is free. Parking is available in downtown Murfreesboro, only a short walk to the festival grounds. Security is orchestrated by the Murfreesboro Police Department with the assistance of law enforcement agencies in the surrounding communities.

The festival’s opening day (Wednesday) is highlighted by an appearance by the popular Band of Oz (8-11 p.m.) on the Broad Street stage.

Also on Wednesday’s agenda is the Murfreesboro Chamber of Commerce’s barbecue dinner (4-7 p.m.), the Hot Cakes Band (5 p.m.), amusement rides (the midway opens at 6 p.m.), the Food Court opens at 5 p.m. and “Melon” (a Bingo type game, starting at 7:30 p.m., featuring loads of prizes and hosted by the Ladies Division of the Murfreesboro Chamber of Commerce).

An opening ceremony will be conducted at 7 p.m. on Wednesday.

Thursday is “Thanks to Our Virginia Friends Night” at the festival. The TFC Band (8 p.m.) is the featured musical entertainment for the nightly “Street Dance.” That day’s agenda also features a fish dinner sponsored by the Murfreesboro Rotary Club (4:30-7:30 p.m.), another round of “Melon” (hosted by the Murfreesboro Historical Association); the Moon Shine Band at 5 p.m. and amusement rides. Once again, the Food Court opens at 5 p.m.

Business really picks up on Friday where the crafts/antiques fair opens at 12 noon. The Rhythm Sensations Cloggers perform at 12 noon followed by Wayne Cook, DJ, who will keep the crowd entertained during the afternoon hours. Two bands will fill Friday’s air with music – Cross Cut at 5 p.m. and the “granddaddy” of all Beach Music groups with a performance by The Embers at 8 p.m. Also scheduled is Caroline White who will perform selections from Broadway Show “Annie” beginning at 6:30 p.m.

Jefcoat Museum will sponsor the day’s main meal – pork barbecue and fried chicken beginning at 4 p.m. The midway area opens at 6 p.m.

Saturday is the festival’s biggest day – beginning at 7 a.m. with a pancake breakfast at Murfreesboro Baptist Church and ending with the Pizazz 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 where Percy Bunch will serve as the Grand Marshal), a 5K road race, the crowning of the 2010 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 each of the four days. There, for the 25th consecutive year, delicious slices of hot fudge cake, topped with ice cream, will be served by members of the Murfreesboro Historical Association.

Also, be sure to visit the main tent where free slices of delicious, homegrown watermelons will be served. The main tent will also sell Watermelon Festival T-shirts, a collectable item this year with the celebration of the 25th anniversary.