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franklin county times

Watermelon Festival a success

Six year-old Bentley Welch enjoys a nice slice of watermelon during Saturday’s 32nd Annual Franklin County Watermelon Festival.

Now that the dust has settled following this past weekend’s 32nd Annual Franklin County Watermelon Festival, event officials said they are thankful for a great turnout for what seems to have been a very successful year.
Franklin County Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Cassie Medley said she has heard good reports from festivalgoers as well as the vendors and entertainers.
“We had a few small hiccups that you’ll have with any event of this size, but all in all, everything went very smoothly this weekend,” Medley said. “All the people I talked to have been very complimentary and said they had a great time at this year’s festival.”
Festivalgoer Nancy Cooper said she makes a point to come to the Watermelon Festival every year, and she was impressed with the selection of vendors at this year’s festival.
“I always enjoy coming to the festival to see everyone, enjoy all the events and see what unique things the vendors have for sale,” Cooper said. “It seems like there was a little bit of everything this year. It was a good variety.”
Medley said she spoke with several different vendors, including festival veterans and newcomers, and was proud they had positive things to say about their experience.
“Some of our new vendors kept bragging on the town and on the people at the festival,” Medley said. “They kept saying how friendly everyone was and how much they enjoyed our town. They said they would be glad to come back next year and that’s great news.
“Our vendors who have been here year after year said they also had a good turnout, which is good because you want your vendors to do well so they’ll keep coming back.”
Medley said the crowd seemed to be big this year – something she said the uncharacteristically pleasant weather might have had something to do with.
“It is usually so hot the week of the Watermelon Festival, but this year we had lots of clouds, a bit of a breeze and lower temperatures,” she said. “Every time we would look at the radar, the rain and storms were always above us or below us, so the good weather was just a blessing.”
She said she also noticed the Friday night crowd was larger than she had anticipated.
“With this being my first year as the Chamber director, I’ve only seen things from the outside looking in, but to me, the Friday night crowd just seems to be growing each year,” she said. “We’re glad the people seem to be coming out both Friday and Saturday and getting the most out of the weekend.”
Franklin County resident Rocky Stone said he was glad the festival still attracted people from across the area each year.
“This is one of the better things our county has to offer annually,” Stone said. “It’s a good thing for our community and for our people and it just seems to get bigger and better each year.”
A big draw for the crowds was the entertainment line-up, which featured a mix of local and out-of-county entertainers.
“I got to talk with many of our entertainers when they finished performing and they all kept saying what a good time they had, which is a testament to the crowd we had watching them perform,” Medley said. “The entertainers told me the crowd was upbeat, and many of the singers expressed interest in returning next year.”
Medley expressed thanks to the many people who had a hand in making this year’s festival a success, including the Chamber board of directors, the police department and emergency medical personnel, the street department and the members of Franklin County Junior Leadership, who helped throughout the day cutting watermelon and picking up trash.
If I started trying to name each person or group that helped this year, I just know I wouldn’t be able to name them all because there were so many people who gave of their time to make this festival a success,” Medley said.
“I had many compliments on how clean everything was and how good the downtown area looked, and how efficiently everything seemed to go, and none of that would have been possible without the hard work so many people and volunteers put in.”
Medley said with all the people who visited the county this year and all the compliments she received, she felt the festival was successful in its main purpose: to show what a great place Franklin County is.
“I’m just glad everyone had a good time,” she said. “Now I guess it’s time to start the planning all over again for next year’s festival.”
The largest watermelon contest was won by a familiar name. Clifton Knight, of Decatur, who set a state record with a 228 pound melon in 2011, won a second straight title by growing a 193 pounder this year.
Knight topped contest newcomer Will Wingo, of Frog Pond. In his first year growing, Wingo weighed in a 180 pound Carolina Cross.
The winner of the most unusual melon was Josh Viglietta, who also took home the top prize in the best tasting category, topping Abby Jones and Anthony Viglietta.
In the best dressed category, Rebecca Roman was named the winner as Stephanie Smith finished second and Andrew Mashburn finished third.
Don Cameron defeated Norman McBroom in the seed spitting contest.