Decision reached to hold 2015 NC Watermelon Fest

Published 1:23 pm Saturday, May 9, 2015

Special to The Tidewater News

Bolstered by pleas from a wide array of supporters, and an infusion of over $25,000 worth of financial support, the North Carolina Watermelon Festival will proceed as earlier planned.

At a meeting here on Wednesday afternoon, the Festival’s executive committee voted unanimously to rescind a decision reached April 21 to cancel the popular event.

“We’re back,” promised committee member Lynette Bunch in a phone call placed to the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald following the meeting. “Everything is on go for this year. We are so thankful for the support shown for this wonderful event.”

Bunch added that the event — slated for Wednesday, July 31 through Saturday, Aug. 1 — will include all the popular activities from previous years….to include live music each night, carnival rides, food and craft vendors, Saturday morning’s parade, and the ever-popular Watermelon Princess and Little Mr. and Little Miss Farmer children’s contests.

The only major change will be an admission fee ($1) at the gate, but that will only be charged on Friday and Saturday.

“There will be free admission on Wednesday and Thursday,” Bunch noted.

The committee’s previous decision to cancel the Festival, which is in its 30th year, was met by public outcry. That was followed by an effort from businesses and private citizens to generate the funds necessary to ensure the financial stability of the event in hopes that the 2015 Festival would be held.

The News-Herald, in an editorial (“Save Our Melons”) published on Saturday, April 25, pledged $1,000 to save the event and asked others to join the effort.

Donations began pouring in, capped by a $15,000 pledge of support made this past Monday by the Hertford County Board of Commissioners.

The decision reached on April 21 to cancel came after the Festival’s committee was informed that the Town of Murfreesboro would no longer cover the expenses incurred by the town’s police officers who serve as security at the festival. At that time, Bunch said the committee did not have the funds to cover that loss — estimated at roughly $12,000 to $13,000.

“Due to the money pledged by businesses and individuals, we began to seriously consider changing our minds,” Bunch said. “Then, when the county commissioners stepped up on Monday and pledged up to $15,000 to help pay for security, we felt we could move forward and hold the festival.”

Bunch added that meetings are being held by local law enforcement agencies and the Festival committee in an effort to re-negotiate the cost of security.

“We will still accept any donations made to the Festival as that money, along with the admission charge this year, will help keep Watermelon Festival alive for years to come,” Bunch concluded.