Local festivals are worthy of our support

Published 5:01 pm Tuesday, August 9, 2022

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The North Carolina Watermelon Festival in Murfreesboro has stood the test of time.

Its humble roots are traced to 1986 where a four-hour event was held on the grounds of the Roberts-Vaughan Village House to honor Whitney Cuthbertson, a Murfreesboro native who was crowned that year as the North Carolina Watermelon Queen.

The success of that inaugural festival prompted local officials to stage it again in 1987, this time in tribute to the sweet treat itself as watermelons are grown commercially in the Murfreesboro area.

And the rest, as they say, is history.

This past weekend marked the 37th year of what is now the North Carolina Watermelon Festival. It has grown into a four-day event that now consumes portions of several city blocks. It attracts thousands to Murfreesboro….many of which mark their calendars months and months in advance to attend.

It has become so popular that graduating classes of the old Murfreesboro High School schedule their reunions during the festival.

Families will mark birthdays and wedding anniversaries that occur around the same time of the festival by having dinner together at one of Murfreesboro’s established restaurants downtown and then continue those celebrations together by attending the festival.

When you use the words family fun together in the same sentence, it makes one think of the Watermelon Festival. I can’t begin to count the number of photos I’ve taken at the festival over the past 37 years that show the wide range of fun that takes place at this wonderful event.

And when such an event occurs annually over the course of three full decades and a portion of two others, you get to witness the attendance of several generations of the same families. My family is no exception as my daughter, now age 37, once tagged along with me when I covered the Melon Fest, and later joined her friends at the event during her teen years. Now her son, my grandson, loves the Watermelon Festival.

Another example is a long-time friend, Ethel Mae (Hoggard) Knowles. We attended school together and once worked together here at the News-Herald. Her children enjoyed the Watermelon Festival and now, this past Saturday, Ethel Mae’s granddaughter, Harper Knowles, was the first runner-up during the Little Princess competition.

The North Carolina Watermelon Festival doesn’t take place without the efforts of a hard-working group of volunteers. They meet throughout the year to carefully plan and organize the event….right down to the fine details of figuring out the amount of space needed for each food vendor to set-up as well as marking off the spaces for each arts/crafts vendor.

A tip-of-the-cap also needs to go to Daryl Williams of the Murfreesboro Chamber of Commerce for staging such a fantastic festival parade on Saturday morning. I haven’t seen a parade that large – as well as a huge crowd watching it – since long before the pandemic.

Hats off to the Murfreesboro Rotary Club for their work in hosting the annual Watermelon Festival 5K. That race, which led off the parade, also attracted a large field of participants.

Personally, I would like to thank Kay Thomas, chair of the Festival’s Planning Committee. As usual, she did a wonderful job of ensuring that the event went off as planned. She is also instrumental in providing me with all the information this newspaper needs to publish our annual Festival Guide.

I’d also like to thank committee members Patty Hale and Frances Cole for helping me organize the winners of the Little Mr. Farmer, Little Miss Farmer, and Little Princess contests for photos.

And another “hats-off” to all the local law enforcement agencies who came in and worked alongside Chief David Griffith and the Murfreesboro Police Department to provide safety at the festival over the course of its four-day run.

Other members of the Melon Fest Committee that helped to ensure the successful outcome of the 2022 event included Jill Awuni, Charles Aycock, Dell Aycock, Lorrie Barnes, Tim     Barnes, Danny Blowe, Betz Blowe, Suzi Brown, Patsy Buffert, Lynette Bunch, Debbie Cobb, Valeria Day, Jamie Dilday, John Fritz, Sharon Fritz, Debbie Edwards, Margaret Gaines, David Griffith, Don Hiller, Mary Hiller, Scott Parker, Brittany Powell, Steve Sumner, Hal Thomas, Armando Torres, Bardin Torres, Daryl Williams, Pam Woodard, and Sandra Woodard.

Percy Bunch, one of the founding fathers of the Watermelon Festival, was also involved in the planning process of this year’s event right up until his death on July 20. A tribute to Mr. Bunch was held during last Wednesday’s opening ceremony of the festival.

Before we can begin to look forward to the 2023 Watermelon Festival, let’s first give our support to a pair of upcoming events in the Roanoke-Chowan area.

This Friday (Aug. 12) is the luminary ceremony of the annual Hertford-Gates Relay for Life. That traditional event, typically held in April at Chowan University, was once again impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

In its place, event organizers will host a luminary ceremony on Friday evening at the Ahoskie Creek Amphitheater. It will also feature a Food Truck Rodeo beginning at 4 p.m. Those who work until 5 p.m. will have time to go home, round-up the kids, and head out to the amphitheater for dinner/supper and the luminary ceremony.

Food trucks participating in the Relay for Life event are Grace’s Grill, Owl Food Ya, Kurbside Kitchen, and Getcha Grub On.

I’ll see you there!!

Mark your calendars now for the annual Seaboard Lions Club Shrimp Feast, slated for Saturday, Sept. 17.

The event features all you can eat shrimp along with beer and soft drinks.

Entertainment will be provided by the Brake Tyme Band of Henderson and the Willie Peebles Band of Jackson.

Gates open at 3 pm; Happy Hour starts at 4 pm, and the food will be ready to serve at 5 pm. The event, held rain or shine, ends at 8 pm.

Patrons can bring chairs and tents. No coolers are permitted.

Tickets, offered in advance, are $40 each and are available from any member of the Seaboard Lions Club or by calling David Burke (252-532-4846) or Gary Elliott (252-532-6050).

The Seaboard Lions Club is located at 653 Peanut Market Road.

Please support these two upcoming events through your attendance or donations.

Cal Bryant is the Editor of Roanoke-Chowan Publications. Contact him at cal.bryant@r-cnews.com or 252-332-7207.

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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