CHIPLEY - The 59th installment of the Panhandle Watermelon Festival is predicated to draw the largest crowd yet, thanks to growing popularity of the festival both on a local and national level, as well as expanded activities and an upswing of big name entertainers.


CHIPLEY - The 59th installment of the Panhandle Watermelon Festival is predicated to draw the largest crowd yet, thanks to growing popularity of the festival both on a local and national level, as well as expanded activities and an upswing of big name entertainers.



This year's festivities will kick off in Pals park in Chipley at 5 p.m. this Friday, June 26, with several food vendors and children's activities. Live musical entertainment begins at 6 p.m.



Looking at the careers and accomplishments of this year's entertainment lineup, it may be difficult for those in attendance to decide which big name artists are the headliners.



This year's lineup reads like a "Who's Who" of country music legends, including Daryle Singletary, Exile, and Mark Wills performing Friday night, and Gospel Music Association (GMA) and Country Music Association (CMA) Hall of Famer Jimmy Fortune, most notable of the Statler Brothers, performing during Saturday's festivities.



"Holding to tradition, Panhandle Watermelon Festival consistently spotlights legendary music acts coupled with family oriented activities making this two day festival unlike any other offered in our area," said PWF Chairman Colby Peel. "Our goal remains to bring the highest quality entertainment to this community while ensuring this event is free to everyone who attends."



The fun will continue Saturday, June 27, with various events taking place, including the annual Watermelon Parade.



Activities will begin at 11 a.m. at the Washington County Agricultural Center with vendors, the traditional watermelon auction and more music from  The Thompsons and Jimmy Fortune.



Last year's event drew about 5,000, but that number is expected to grow exponentially this weekend.



"We're hoping to take some aerial photos to improve the accuracy of our county," said Peel. "There's no doubt we're growing year by year. The first year saw about 500 in attendance, but as the community continues to support the festival, it becomes bigger and better."



Peel reports that community support is also reflected in an increase of sponsors, with $13, 500 of the festival's $60,000 budget coming from  those who help support the festival.



"The fact there's more sponsors this year reflects how many people are invested in seeing this event grow," he said. "All money raised goes straight back to the community to help fund next year's festival and ensure it remains a quality, free event."



 



PWF SCHEDULE OF EVENTS:



Friday, June 26:



Pals Park



5 p.m.: Gates open



6 p.m.: Music by Daryle Singletay, Exile, and Mark Wills



 



Saturday, June 27:



7 a.m.: Pancake Breakfast at the Panhandle Shrine Club



7: 30 a.m.: Watermelon Hot Trot, beginning at the Florida Panhandle Technical College



10 a.m.: Watermelon Parade



Washington County Agricultural Center:



11 a.m.: Music by The Thompsons



11:45 a.m.: Queen introductions



Noon: Watermelon auction



1:30 p.m.: Music by Jimmy Fortune



8 p.m. Watermelon Dance at the Panhandle Shrine Club (Admission $10)