CHIPLEY - The numbers are in, and the official attendance of the 61st annual Panhandle Watermelon Festival topped 6,700, making it the largest PWF event to date.
Entertainers for Friday night's concert were country stars Julie Roberts, Restless Heart, and Darryl Worley. Worley brought the house down during the performance of his hit single, Have You Forgotten?," when he brought Washington County's emergency responders on stage to pay tribute to their daily sacrifices.
Two Marines also touched the crowd when they threw their USMC hats on stage as a gift for Worley - which he stopped the show to sign and throw back as he spoke about the importance of the men and women who give their life to military service.
The festivities continued Saturday with the PWF Pancake Breakfast at the Panhandle Shrine Club on Brickyard Road, the annual PWF Hot Trot 5K and Kids' Fun Run, the Watermelon Parade.
Other highlights include the return of the Watermelon Car Show, with 81 participants, including Longest Distance Traveled winner, Irving Young, who drove 235 miles from Hampton, Florida to register his 1938 Oldsmobile.
Former Washington County Coordinator David Corbin returned as auctioneer for the watermelon auction. The Grand Champion Watermelon sold for $3,100, purchased by Derwin White of GAC Contractors. All proceeds from the auction benefit the PWF's efforts to fund future events, helping provide free, family entertainment to the community.
PWF Chairman Colby Peel expressed his appreciation for all those who made the festival possible as he addressed the crowd Friday night.
"It is wonderful to look out and see so many families enjoying this event," he said. "It makes it all worth it."