Water Valley will soon be flooded with locals and visitors alike enjoying the festivities at the 48th annual Watermelon Carnival. While the beloved fruit is the theme of the two-day party, the event has much more to offer attendants with food, music and family fun.
“This is a great place for families because we have something for everyone,” Linda White, Water Valley Chamber of Commerce Public Relations Officer, said. “Everyone has their own favorite event. That is why we have things for all ages groups.”
The Event will kick-off Friday, Aug. 4, at 6:00 p.m. at the gazebo in the City Park. The ceremony will start with an opening invocation by Keith Burney, a welcoming speech by Mayor Larry Hart and a singing of the “National Anthem” by Anita McGehee. The 2017 Watermelon Queen, Anna Katherine Burress, and her court will also be crowned.
At 8:00 p.m., the streets will come alive with the annual street dance in the middle of Central Street. This year the Oxford All-Stars will be performing during the dance. At 9:00 p.m. in the City Park, a fireworks spectacular will begin.
On Saturday, Aug. 5, things will start early with the 30th annual 3k walk/run at the Casey Jones Railroad Museum, which is free to participants. The annual antique car display will then begin at 8:00 a.m. and will run through 4:30 p.m. at Shuffield Park. This event is also free to viewers.
Things will really heat up Saturday during the 8th annual Train Track Pork Attack Barbecue Cooking Contest hosted behind Renascent Bank. This year’s contest will feature well-known barbecue teams such as Victory Lain, Poker Porker and Dead Hog Walking competing for a $1,500 cash prize.
Festival goers can help taste test and vote on a winner of the competition if they purchase a ticket. Tickets will cost $10 each and testing will last from 10:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. The winner will be announced at 5:15 p.m. at the gazebo.
“We have a great forecast with a high of 87, which will make this year the best ever for outside barbecue in August,” Tonya Eubanks, volunteer chairman of the T.T.P.A. BBQ cooking contest, said. “This event usually brings out a lot of people and we have a lot of big name barbecue teams coming this year.”
Other events that will be hosted on Saturday will be a sidewalk chalk art station, the largest water melon judging completion and various free watermelon games. A pet parade and costume contest will also be happening Saturday at 4:00 p.m. at the gazebo. An air conditioned trolley will be stationed in the southwest corner of the park and will be making runs every 10 to 15 minutes free of charge.
Serval live musical acts will be performing in the city park gazebo on Saturday. Entertainers who will be performing this year include Tome Foolery, Kate Keeley, the DeSoto Boomers, Tanner Mills, Eric Deaton and Sounds of Tyme.
There will also be serval food trucks and craft vendors stationed around the park selling everything from bird houses to jewelry. There are also usually plenty of watermelon vendors selling their fruit at the festival it was named after.
“It brings everyone together, as well as people from the surrounding communities, and the kids really enjoy a big event before heading back to school,” Chelsey Bratton, Water Valley resident, said.
Read below for a brief history of the carnival courtesy of The Water Valley Chamber of Commerce:
The Watermelon Carnival is Water Valley’s most prized annual celebration. An estimated 20,000 people attend the various events, always set the first weekend in August. The carnival is named among the top 20 festivals in the southeastern United States by the Southeastern Tourism Society.
The first carnival was held on Thursday, August 27, 1931. At that time, the entire nation was in the grip of the depression. In Water Valley, a bank had failed, the railroad had pulled out, and unemployment was high. Local businessmen were concerned about the spirit of the townspeople, so they decided to host a carnival to boost morale.
The Watermelon Carnival consisted of a parade, a pageant to name the carnival queen, and a formal ball. Festivities were repeated for nine consecutive years, and then halted with the outbreak of World War II. The Watermelon Carnival lay in dormancy until 1980.
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