Sweet Treat #29!

Published 9:01 am Tuesday, July 29, 2014

The 29th annual North Carolina Watermelon Festival begins its traditional four-day run on Wednesday in Murfreesboro where, from among a long list of activities, patrons can enjoy free slices of watermelon. Staff Photo by Cal Bryant

The 29th annual North Carolina Watermelon Festival begins its traditional four-day run on Wednesday in Murfreesboro where, from among a long list of activities, patrons can enjoy free slices of watermelon. Staff Photo by Cal Bryant

MURFREESBORO – What started nearly 30 years ago as a four-hour affair has blossomed into one of eastern North Carolina’s biggest events.

The North Carolina Watermelon Festival begins its 29th annual run in Murfreesboro on Wednesday, July 30 not as a four-hour event, but one that spans four days (through Saturday, Aug. 2).

The transformation this festival has seen over the years is nothing short of amazing for a small town like Murfreesboro.

That “little” town will grow by leaps and bounds starting Wednesday as upwards to 40,000 visitors are expected at the festival over its four-day run.

As far as security goes, Murfreesboro Police Chief Darrell Rowe said there is a plan in place, one where law enforcement officers on foot and motorized patrols work in unison.

“We try to make it as safe as possible for people while they’re here,” said Rowe.

The Murfreesboro Police Department receives assistance with the festival crowd from law enforcement agencies from all across the Roanoke-Chowan area. Rowe said during the peak hours of the event, 15 to 17 officers at a time are patrolling the festival grounds.

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.

The festival’s opening day (Wednesday, July 30) is highlighted by an appearance by The Band of Oz (7-10 p.m.) on the Broad Street stage.

Also on Wednesday’s agenda is the Murfreesboro Chamber of Commerce’s steamed shrimp dinner (4:30-7 p.m.), amusement rides (the midway opens at 6 p.m.; Family Night featuring unlimited rides for one price of $20) and Bingo (in the Murfree Center) starting at 7:30 p.m. featuring loads of prizes.

An opening ceremony will be conducted at 6 p.m. on Wednesday.

Thursday features the BackBeat Band on the Broad Street stage from 7-10 p.m. BackBeat bills itself as a Beatles tribute band as well as performing other hits of the 60’s.  That day’s agenda also features a trout dinner sponsored by the Murfreesboro Rotary Club (4:30-7 p.m.), another round of Bingo (7:30 p.m. start) at the Murfree Center and amusement rides (unlimited rides for $20 per person).

Business really picks up on Friday where the crafts/antiques fair opens at 12 noon, along with a wide variety of “eats” at the Food Fair. The US Air Force Heritage Ramblers Dixieland Band performs Friday afternoon; the amusement rides open at 6 p.m.; and there is a pork barbecue/fried chicken dinner hosted by Jefcoat Museum from 4:30-7 p.m. The evening’s featured band on the Broad Street stage is The Breakfast Club (7-10 p.m.). They will play hits from the decade of the 80’s.

Saturday is the festival’s biggest day – beginning at 7 a.m. with a pancake breakfast until 9:45 a.m.) at Murfreesboro Baptist Church and ending with the Pizaaz Band performing from 7:30-10 p.m. on the Broad Street stage.

In-between is the state’s largest agricultural parade (10 a.m. on Main Street), a 5K run/walk road race (preceding the parade), the crowning of the 2014 Watermelon Princess, the selection of Little Mr. and Miss Farmer, watermelon eating and seed spitting contests, largest watermelon contest, amusement rides, a full afternoon/early evening line-up of entertainment (bands, clogging groups and solo artists); Bingo at 7:30 p.m. in the Murfree Center and a huge display of fireworks (9:15 p.m.).

Breanna Williams of Smithfield, the 2014 N.C. Watermelon Association Queen, will reign over the North Carolina Watermelon Festival activities in Murfreesboro. Williams, the daughter of Angie Lock of Smithfield and Don Williams of Cary, is a rising junior at N.C. State University, majoring in Agricultural Education with a minor in Animal Science.

For those looking for a sweet treat, be sure to visit the main tent where free slices of delicious, homegrown watermelons will be served. The main tent also offers the new 2014 Watermelon Festival t-shirts for sale.

And, as is tradition, there is no admission fee and plenty of free parking during all four days of the Watermelon Festival.

For information on any of the activities or visit www.ncwatermelonfest.com



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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