Saturday, September 28, 2013

My Memoir: Melon Days Festival

Each year my home town hosts the three-day annual Melon Days Festival.  
The event takes place in the fall but you would still think it summer with extremely warm temperatures. People come from all around to watch the parade, peruse the flea-market type booths and eat all the free watermelon one can. It's a fun filled weekend  where only those who book a hotel room a year in advance get to experience the small town ambiance.

Growing up in this small town I can attest to the excitement that fills the air weeks before the event. The parade must be coordinated, the floats decorated, tons of candy must be purchased and my favorite, the Melon Days Pageant. Weeks of preparation go into this event although the audience only sees an hour or two of entertainment. There are hours of practice each girl puts into her talent number, choosing the right dress, meeting with the judges for a personal interview and the finale, the night of crowning the new pageant queen. As you might have guessed I was a contestant and crowned Miss Melon Days. What fun I had on that day and each year as I watch who will be crowned the next Miss Melon Days.

The festivities started in the early 1920's but folks were growing melons long before the official Melon Days were declared. Before that Green River grew peaches, rows and rows of peaches lined the river banks. Unfortunately, the harsh winters killed most of the trees before they ever reached maturity. Unlike trees, the melons are planted each spring and grow well into the fall. They are a hearty plant that can withstand the desert heat. Even in late fall you can enjoy winter melons. It just seemed natural to keep growing the melons and within a few years word got around how good the melons were. The dawn of Melon Days was already in the making. Melons were shipped everywhere the trains would take them. They became so well known it was determined a festival be held so everyone could enjoy the sweet taste you can only get from a Green River melon.

In the beginning the parade was quite small compared to the annual parade today. However, there is still the familiar marching band, the original firetruck from the 1950's and famous watermelon float. Its first appearance was in the 1960's. It is the hallmark of the parade. 

Early on there were also baseball games that lasted well into the evening. The baseball games are still going strong after all these years. Teams come from surrounding towns to play ball all night.

The festival wouldn't be complete if I did not mention the square dancing. Young and old come dressed in colorful outfits to do-si-do around the dance floor. It's not only fun to watch but the best part is the cantaloupe and ice cream served afterwards. This is a must if you have never tried it.

Along with all this are the booths set up in the park. There is something for everyone; free rides for the kids, homemade items for the ladies, and all kinds of food for the guys. Don't forget all the free watermelon you can eat. This is one small town festival that will leave you and your family wanting more. I warmly invite you to spend the day or weekend in my home town to make some memories of your own.
I encourage all my friends, family and others to share your thoughts about this event or a festival you have enjoyed.