Have you ever had a moment when something jogs your thoughts and you are shocked as you ask yourself where all the time went. You may mutter to yourself, “My how time flies”. One of these epiphanies happened to me recently.
I saw the poster for the next Watermelon Festival when I walked into the Farmerville City Hall. The beauty of the poster was typical and it announced the dates of the event. Also included was the heading, “60th annual”. Wow, this is the 60th year of the festival; and what a festival it is. What is even more astounding to me is that I vividly remember the first celebration.
The first festival was no real festival as compared to what we have today. There was no big parade nor pageant nor street dance. The day was composed of several speeches and a couple of tractor trailers filled with watermelons that were destined for markets out of state. I climbed up in the window of the new court houses second floor and looked down on the embryo that would grow into the beautiful event we have today. At that time it was felt that watermelons could fill the void for the crops in Union Parish. What better way to promote than to have a Watermelon festival.
The early years was filled with enthusiastic rural American fervor. A parade appeared as did the Miss Watermelon pageant. John Muckelroy toured other pageants and invited contestants to participate in the Watermelon pageant while Jean Futch, always the elegant lady, would mentor the winners on their journey to the Miss Louisiana pageant. The pageant was held in sweltering temperatures in a packed Farmerville Gym.
In the earlier events the county agent’s office was located on the east side of the courthouse. This is where women from around the parish would bring in preserves and other foods to be judged. Quickly the watermelon contests appeared. Watermelon seed spitting was big as was the watermelon eating contest. Of course the largest watermelon contest was held followed by the raffling of the melons. Soon after the first watermelon festival, the local merchants showed their support. Several gave gift certificates. I personally received a $25.00 gift certificate from Kelly’s Toggery where I quickly cashed it in for a new sports coat. Small town America at its best.
The festival has morphed into one of the prestige events of North Louisiana. This is a testament to the men and women that keep the event alive and growing. The spirit of Union Parish is alive and strong. Hope to see you at the 60th annual Watermelon Festival. My how time flies.
God Bless America and Pray for the Ukraine.