CHIPLEY – Music On, Melons Ripe, Summers Here.
That's the theme for the 62 annual Panhandle Watermelon Festival coming up on Friday and Saturday, June 22 and 23. As one of the nation’s largest free festivals, this years festival promises to bring more activities than previous years.
PWF Chairman Colby Peel expects record breaking attendance this year due in part to Friday night’s entertainment line-up.
"We expect at least 5,000 to be in attendance at the concert on Friday and throughout all the events on Saturday," Peel said. "Who doesn’t want to come see Deana Carter and Joe Nichols for free and enjoy spending time with their community."
What began as an end of season celebration on Ross Deal’s farm in 1956 has morphed into the family fun event that draws crowds from throughout the region. According the Hon. Judge Perry Wells, former PWF chairman, the first event was hosted in 1956 by Deal at his watermelon loading shed as a celebration of a success of the growing season and of those who helped make it possible.
In 1969, former Washington County Extension Agent Red Davis, would organize what is now known as the Panhandle Watermelon Festival. Around 1970, Wells would take the helm and lead the charge for the next 35 years with his wife, Hester.
Thirteen years ago, Peel took the reins and following in his predecessors footsteps, continues to grow the event year after year.
Peel said the goal is to keep bringing great entertainment for free to the community.
"Our goal remains to bring the highest quality entertainment to this community while ensuring this event is free to everyone who attends," said Peel.
He said the free event wouldn’t be possible without the support of the community and those in it. Community support is also reflected in an increase of sponsors.
"PWF continues to grow and be possible because of the incredible support of the community," said Peel. "The sponsors, volunteers, and those who attend make this event possible every year."
"The fact there’s more sponsors this year reflects how many people are invested in seeing this event grow," Peel added. "All money raised goes straight back to the community to help fund next year’s festival and ensure it remains a quality, free event."
The City of Chipley, Chipley Fire Department, Washington County Sheriff’s Office and Chipley Police Department are integral parts in making the festival a success from the use of Pals Park for Friday night’s concerts to grilling hamburgers and hot dogs as part of their fundraising efforts for everyone to enjoy, to security and traffic control, Peel said he is grateful to these departments for helping make this the go to event of the year.
"Without the help of the City of Chipley, Chipley Fire Department, Chipley Police Department and Washington County Sheriff’s Office, we couldn’t do all of what we do, and we are so thankful for all they do to help make the event a success," he said.
For more information on the Panhandle Watermelon Festival visit www.panhandlewatermelon.com.