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Melon Fest enters final day

MURFREESBORO — The show must go on!

Despite a Thursday night wash-out, the 25th annual North Carolina Watermelon Festival welcomed bright and sunny skies – not to mention lower temperatures – on Friday. Today’s (Saturday) forecast for the final day of the event calls for partly sunny conditions with a high of 90 degrees – pleasant by most standards for late July.

Event organizers are expecting a large turnout for Saturday, one full of activities beginning early morning until 11 p.m.

Thursday’s rainfall was a blessing – beneficial for area farmers as well as guaranteeing the Saturday night fireworks show. Due to the extremely dry conditions, the fireworks would have been canceled, but the rain solved that possible dilemma.

As is tradition, 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 festival organizer Percy Bunch will serve as the Grand Marshal and Earl Telliga of WDLZ-FM as the Celebrity 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. Arts and crafts vendors will also have their wares on display.

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.

History buffs are invited to the Elizabeth Sewell Parker Memorial Library on Main Street to view a display of 25 years worth of Watermelon Festival T-shirts.

The festival got underway on Wednesday with a huge crowd in attendance. During the opening ceremony, event co-founders Charles Freeman and Byron Simonds shared their memories of the festival, one that began in 1986 with a one-float parade and one vendor at a four-hour celebration. The original festival was orchestrated to pay honor to a young woman from Murfreesboro, Whitney Cuthbertson (Taylor), who had won the state watermelon queen title. Mrs. Taylor was on hand Wednesday night to accept a bouquet of roses in remembrance of that occasion.

This year’s North Carolina Watermelon Queen, Madelyn Briana Varner, will be at the festival today. The 19-year-old daughter of Carl and Gale Varner of Denton will be featured in the parade and then will preside over several events during the day.

Additionally, 18 of the former 24 NC Watermelon Festival princesses are gathering today for a reunion. They will ride on a float in the parade and later be introduced during an opening ceremony.

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.