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Water Valley celebrates 49th annual Watermelon Carnival

By Allen Brewer

Way down in Water Valley, locals and visitors alike gathered to celebrate the 49th annual Watermelon Carnival.

The celebration began on August 2 and lasted through August 4. The festival hosted several activities, craft vendors, a barbecue cook-off, live music, street dancing, fireworks and plenty of free watermelon slices for everyone.

“It was fantastic,” Linda White, Festival Publicity Chairperson for the Watermelon Carnival, said. “There was something for everyone of all ages.”

Local musicians kicked off the festivities on Tuesday night at the Watermelon Music Festival in the Civic Auditorium. The annual street dancing event was hosted on Friday at 8 p.m. with a fireworks spectacular at 9 p.m.

“It was probably the biggest crowd I have ever seen,” Zandra Walker, director of the Water Valley Chamber of Commerce, said. “The event lasted longer, and the vendors stayed open later than usual.”

Saturday was filled with free activities and events for the public. Activities included the 31st annual 5K Walk/Run, a sidewalk chalk art station, a seed spitin’ competition and other watermelon games.

This year marks the first year the festival hosted an antique car parade which circled the city park at 10 a.m. Other Saturday activities included the largest watermelon judging contest and the Train Track Park Attack Barbecue Contest.

This year’s largest watermelon winner weighed in at over 176 lbs. The melon, which was grown by Hal Vaughn, won the $250 grand prize.

“This is the first time I tried growing a watermelon,” Vaughn said. “I’ll try to do better next year.”

The melon was sold at an auction following the contest. Money earned from the sale went toward a scholarship provided by the chamber of commerce for a local high school student.

Twenty-seven teams entered into this year’s barbecue competition. A group of Oxonians competed this year to defend their three-year People’s Choice Championship with their unique BBQ egg rolls.

“It’s awesome,” John Trott, a member of B3Q team, said. “ We love coming here.”

The festivities ended at 5:15 p.m. with the announcement of the cook-off winners according to categories. A group of 100 festival goers got the chance to taste test each teams BBQ and voted on their favorite dishes.

“The festival has grown a lot,” James Treloar, former superintendent of Lafayette School District, said. “There are a lot more activities now, and the crowds have grown. There are also a lot of people who come from different places.”

While many of the festival attendants were locals, some new faces came to visit the Valley and left with a fun experience.

“I had the best time,” Danielle O’Bryen, a first time festival attendee from New York, said. “I walked in the 5k run, ate at the pancake breakfast and went shopping on Main Street. I think the town is totally charming.”

Festival Planners were pleased with this year’s turn out and are looking forward to next year’s 50th anniversary.

“I keep coming back to the festival because I like this town, I like the people and I like what I do,” Marry Williams, a craft vendor from Jackson, said.