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Thousands pay tribute to juicy fruit

MURFREESBORO – All roads lead to Murfreesboro.

At least they did on Saturday.

Judging from the crowd in attendance on the final day of the 25th annual North Carolina Watermelon Festival, the population (2,408) tripled within this historic Hertford County town. Vehicles filled each and every available spot in downtown Murfreesboro. Ditto for the side streets in and around the festival site as one of the largest crowds in recent memory took full advantage of the beautiful weather to pay tribute to the juicy fruit that serves as the centerpiece of the event.

“Wow,” was the first word from festival co-chairperson Lynette Bunch’s mouth as she watched a steady stream of festival patrons file in on Saturday. “This is wonderful. What a great day and a great crowd this is. We (the festival committee) are tickled to death over the success of this year’s event and what a great way to promote the town of Murfreesboro and Hertford County to our out-of-town guests.”

From an early morning breakfast to the final guitar licks from the Pizzaz Band at 11 p.m., Saturday’s festivities offered something for all ages.

Following a tradition started 25 years ago, the festival parade – hailed as the largest agricultural event of its kind in the state – packed Main Street with thousands of spectators on Saturday morning. That crowd then made their way to the festival grounds where a wide variety of entertainment, food, arts/crafts and carnival rides awaited their arrival.

Another festival tradition – the Little Princess contest – attracted nine, 5-year-olds. When the judges tallied their score sheets, Aurora Freeman earned the title of 2010 NC Watermelon Festival Princess. Aurora, who celebrated her fifth birthday on Saturday, is the daughter of David and Gabrielle Freeman of Greenville and the granddaughter of Mr. and Mrs. Charles Freeman of Ahoskie.

Ava Meares, the daughter of Jean and Danny Meares of Raleigh, was the first runner-up. She is the granddaughter of Martha Jean Adams of Murfreesboro. The second runner-up was Hannah Unger, the daughter of Jonathon and Stacy Unger of Ahoskie.

“I can’t believe I’m one of the princesses,” Aurora shouted just after the crown was placed on her head.

The day was also highlighted by 18 of the former 25 festival princesses. They rode on a parade float and were later introduced to the crowd.

The Little Farmer contest winner was Jadon Simmons, the son of Rye and Melissa Simmons of Conway.

Kenleigh Tyson was judged as the Little Miss Farmer winner. She is the daughter of Liza Davis and Joel Tyson of Bell Arthur, NC and the granddaughter of Mary Davis of Pendleton.