Photo Special to Alachua County Today

Eating watermelon and spitting seeds are popular with kids and adults alike at the Newberry Watermelon Festival. Games, contests, music and crowning of the Newberry Watermlon Queen are all on tap.

NEWBERRY – The Newberry Watermelon Festival Committee has packed a whole lot into their upcoming festival. Businesses, clubs, organizations and churches have pooled their resources to help celebrate a multi-faceted 24 hours of entertainment, contests, auctions and music on May 20-21.

This year's festival will begin with the Watermelon Festival Queen Pageant, 7 p.m., Friday, May 20. The pageant will be held on the Destiny Church Property, 20820 West Newberry Road. That location will also be the headquarters for most of the May 21 fun, games, contests and music.

Other festival-related activities begin at 8:30 a.m., Saturday, May 21, with the Watermelon Fun Run and Walk, which will take place at the Lois Forte Park (previously known as Triangle Park) located at 255 NW 260th Street.

The Newberry Watermelon Festival Parade will begin at 9 a.m., Saturday. Parade line up will begin at 8:15 a.m. at the Fire Station and will exit onto Newberry Road. The Grand Marshall this year is Alachua County Sheriff Sadie Darnell and the Honorary Grand Marshall is Riley Maddison. TheWatermelon Festival Queen and her court will be among those featured in this year's parade, along with several other local and regional dignitaries.

“The unofficial opening of the festival is 9 a.m. That's when people begin to show up at the festival booths,” said Watermelon Festival Committee member Kathryn Thomas. “However, the official opening begins at 11 a.m., when Mayor Bill Conrad spits the first Watermelon Seed,” she said.

A fund-raising auction begins at noon on the main stage with regionally well-known auctioneer, J.R. Trimm. “People can expect to see some watermelon-related items, beautiful handmade bowls, vinyl beach bags, earrings, a bottle of Joy donated by Cason's Barbecue, a handmade chenille scarf donated by Debbie and Daryl Dewitt and many more items,” said Linda Woodcock, Watermelon Festival Committee member.

Games begin at 1 p.m. on the Main Stage and are free. They include a Watermelon Seed Spitting Contest, Hog Calling Contest, Watermelon Eating Contest, Watermelon Roll (for children five and under), a Celebrity Watermelon Roll featuring K-Country's Lewis Stokes and featured performer Mark Copeland and a Dog Fashion Show (time TBA Saturday).

“Lewis and Mark have been practicing all year for this fabulous event,” said Thomas, tongue in cheek.

“One of the businesses contributing to the Newberry community this year is Santa Fe Ford,” said Woodcock. “They are sponsoring a 'Sign and Drive' event on May 21.” They will donate money to Newberry High School for each car that is driven the day of the festival.

“Here's your chance to try out a new Ford and help Newberry's students, too,” said Woodcock.

“T-shirt sales have been outstanding this year,” said Thomas. “We have had to reorder already and we haven't even gotten to the Festival itself,” she said. The shirts are for sale at Capital City Bank, 24202 West Newberry Road, Suite F and will be for sale at the festival. Cost is $10, $12 for size XX and above.

The day's event would not be complete without free watermelon slices, which are being provided by Bass Farm and Hodge Farm, both of which are located in Newberry.

The Newberry Watermelon Festival Committee says, “Ya'll come and join us for a fun-filled Newberry event.”

#     #     #

Email Cwalker@