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Let me tell you about the capitol

When I moved to Cordele, Ga., back in 2000, the thing that amazed me were the similarities between this small Georgia town and Greenville.

When I first arrived there, everyone in town was all excited about the upcoming Watermelon Days.

In Cordele, they take a whole 10-day period to celebrate what is good about the watermelon.

When I said something about that being odd, they quickly pointed out to me that Cordele was the Watermelon Capitol of the World.

Well, not so fast, I told them; I was raised in Greenville, where we had our own Watermelon Jubilee, a Miss Watermelon Pageant and so much more.

"How much of the world's watermelons are raised in Greenville?" they asked me.

I told them I was not so sure about these numbers, and a farmer at the diner's table next to me just laughed.

"Come on, son," he said. "Let me show you why we're the watermelon capitol."

With that, this elderly man and I rode out of town, and, soon, I found myself driving along fields that seemed to stretch for miles and where we see soybeans, peanuts and cotton here, there, all I could see were thousands of watermelons.

I don't think I had ever seen that many of one thing in my life.

We got back to town, and he said, "So, you go on back home to Greenville sometimes and tell them their little festival is fine, but we are the capitol."

I promised I would do that, and here I am five years later writing about the adventure.

When it was time to harvest the melons, there were so many trucks going through town that when they crossed the railroad tracks, watermelons would bounce off.

The drivers never stopped, but there always seemed to be a group of youngsters nearby who would scoop up the shattered melons, and sometimes they'd eat some.

But, usually, a watermelon fight would take place.

Many times I would sit in my office and watch the nearby tracks as these children would become covered in watermelon juice.

Often, I would wonder what their mothers would think when their children arrived back home, filthy and nasty from the watermelon war.

Of course, when Watermelon Days rolled around I was amazed.

You hear the Tim McGraw song about the 'Watermelon Crawl,' and I have to think that I've met the people who introduced this dance.

There would be days of music, fun and spectator events, and, yes, all

the watermelon you could eat in a sitting.

I remember coming home to Greenville and someone commented on my weight, and I said that I was on an easy diet. I would find myself eating watermelon at breakfast with a bowl of cereal.

I'd have a slice at lunch, and many nights it was my dessert.

Then came the day that I turned from watermelon and vowed I'd never eat it again.

But once I left Cordele and got it out of my system, I found I still enjoyed a good cold slice of melon.

I tell you all this to say that the Watermelon Jubilee is next weekend.

I do hope you'll make plans to be there.

It's a great event with lots of fun.

But for it to be successful, you have to take part.

That seed-spitting contest is worth the price of a ticket alone.

Jay Thomas is managing editor of the Greenville Advocate and be reached at 334-382-3111, ext. 136.