Many melons munched at marvelous Jubilee

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, August 13, 2003

A seed-spittin’, foot-tappin’, finger-lickin’, power-shoppin’ good time was had by the many visitors who attended last weekend’s 22nd Annual Watermelon Jubilee Arts and Crafts Festival on Watermelon Hill in Greenville.

A number of out-of-county and out-of-state license plates were spotted in the parking areas on Saturday and Sunday.

Vendors and visitors had come from far and near to sample the sights, sounds and sweet treats of the festival, which serves to promote the county’s watermelon industry and has become a symbol of Greenville itself for many out-of-towners.

After what seemed an endless stream of afternoons punctuated by showers and rainstorms, Jubilee organizers considered themselves fortunate to have two concurrent days without benefit of ‘liquid sunshine.’

&uot;We are so glad the rains held off…we have a lot of neat, new things this year for our folks to enjoy,&uot; said the new Jubilee President Cindy Cartwright. &uot;We’ve added free slices of yellow meat watermelon in addition to the traditional red variety…there are new vendors; we’ve also got this great booth where kids can stuff their own teddy bears, you have to see it,&uot; Cartwright noted with enthusiasm.

When queried late Saturday morning about the status of this year’s event, Cartwright responded with a smile and nod. &uot;It’s going well.

People are coming and they are buying-that’s great to see,&uot; she said.

One of the ‘neat new’ attractions found at this year’s festival was a 1926 Hercules ‘hit and miss’ engine that ground fresh corn on the spot into grits and cornmeal.

Herbert Morton of Forest Home was one of many visitors who stopped to watch and chat with overall-clad CW Bruton of Cantonment, Fla.

Bruton and wife Dorothy were selling packages of the additive-free, fresh ground grits and meal &uot;like hotcakes&uot;, said Morton, who also took home some of their products.

&uot;I thought there was a nice mix of things to see and do…we really enjoyed ourselves,&uot; he later said.

One of the first-time vendors at Jubilee, Gadsden’s Teresa Harbisen, said she was &uot;pleasantly surprised&uot; at the good traffic her jewelry booth was receiving.

&uot;With school starting back, you feel a lot of people don’t have extra money for events like this—but it’s been steady.

And everyone here has been so friendly,&uot; she said.

Many familiar local faces could be found at Jubilee this year, including Honoraville’s Daisy and Emmett Bell (handcrafted bags and birdhouses), Chapman’s Wilodean Brown (pen-and-ink drawings and prints) and Greenville’s Trish Stabler (spa products) and Juanita Proveaux (clothing and accessories for the home).

Greenville native Dale Gates, a stained glass artisan who recently returned to the Camellia City, displayed a number of his glowing handcrafted sun catchers, panels and other handiwork to the crowd last weekend.

A number of folks were spotted stopping by to take a look at Gates’ fine work, including a pair familiar to many television viewers—WSFA-TV’s David Hagood and his new bride, Katie.

As always, festival food was a big draw for attendees.

Angel Stacy, who helped man the barbecue concession with fellow Greenville High School Band Boosters, was pleased with the crowd response.

&uot;We have sold a ton of barbecue,&uot; she said Saturday afternoon.

Music is also a perennially popular part of the Watermelon Jubilee. Saturday’s entertainment included McKenzie’s ‘Singing Salesman’, Carl Tillery, the smooth acapella harmonies of gospel trio &uot;Called Out&uot; and the toe-tapping rhythms of popular local bluegrass gospel band &uot;Southern Comfort.&uot;

Watermelon fans fluttered and plenty of homemade ice cream and cold drinks were consumed as the heat of a Saturday afternoon in south Alabama intensified.

For one very small visitor, nothing was more satisfying than an ice-cold slice of Alabama watermelon.

Two-year-old Lexi Grace Gosdin of Roanoke, Alabama, had her ‘bite-and-spit-the-seeds’ routine done pat as she nibbled away at the melon slice. After all, she is an old pro at it.

&uot;This is her second year here at Jubilee—we bought her that T-shirt last year,&uot; said dad Anthony, pointing out Lexi’s red shirt bearing the official watermelon insignia.

&uot;She really enjoys it here,&uot; he said.

Who knows?

While champion Jason Layfield successfully defended his title this year with a distance of 41 feet, 10 inches, there just might be a future seed-spitting champion on the horizon.