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Staying dry at the festival

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Column by Jim Clark

By Jim Clark

With rain gear, hat, towel and other paraphernalia packed, I headed to the Watermelon Festival last Saturday.

Fortunately, I didn't need a lot of that stuff.

The steady drizzle that was in the air as the booths opened at 9 a.m. gave way to cloudy skies about 45 minutes later, and the parade went off without people getting soaked. The contestants were able to ride atop their cars and trucks, many sitting on towels, without getting drenched. The crowds, while late in arriving, seemingly appeared out of nowhere as the event got started and waved, cheered and, for the younger (usually) onlookers, fought for candy that was thrown from many of the floats that slowly moved down U.S. Highway 19-98. Sometimes that candy plunked a photographer on the head, but what the heck, I had my Mets hat on for protection, and I resisted the temptation to pick up the candy and throw it back.

The parade took exactly 30 minutes to pass me, not a bad length, but not as long as it is during an election year. Next year, add a dozen or so politicians to the mix and it will be longer.

Before the parade I wandered around the booths on Park Avenue, taking a few pictures, looking at camels and watching people eat watermelon (what else?).

Then after the parade, I followed it to the depot and took in the sights there, seeing the stage tucked way in the back with a speaker system that no one up front could hear. That was a shame because they introduced all those queen contestants.

Then they had the flag ceremony, which seemed a little late, and again, you couldn't hear it announced, so the first indication that people had that there was a flag ceremony was when the rifles went off, causing a few shrieks in the crowd. But as people realized what was happening, they hushed during Dave Hutcherson's playing of “Taps” on the bugle, and then watched solemnly as the flag was raised at the flagpole. It was a good patriotic moment for the community, whose members also cheered firefighters and a patriotic float as they passed by during the parade.

Only after a while did I realize that there were booths up and down the back street connecting Park Avenue with the depot area. It's been a couple of years since I was here, and I don't remember those being there. That's a sign of expansion of the festival, a good thing (I used to park on that back street).

Then it was back to my car, and that was a little bit of an adventure. Didn't they used to have people on the highway to stop traffic so people could cross to their cars. At the point when I went across, there was no help whatsoever.

Still, as I drove back to the office, I felt satisfied that it had been a good day. So congratulations to those who put on the event.

Jim Clark is the editor of the Chiefland Citizen. He can be reached at editor@chieflandcitizen.com or at 493-4796.