Tour de Melon Kicks of Watermelon Festival

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By Ryan Butler

The Suwanne Valley Rotary Club hosted the first-ever Tour de Melon on June 2, looking to start a new tradition as an annual kick off one of Chiefland’s oldest.
Beginning and ending a few blocks from the Watermelon Festival in downtown Chiefland. The Tour was created in part as a complement to the festival. It attracted participants from as far as Georgia and South Florida, many of whom stayed in Chiefland hotels and got an opportunity to experience the festival.
Over 150 riders and 40 volunteers helped put on the bike ride.
“I knew it would be great and well attended because we stressed over it to make sure it would go well,” said rotary club president Paige Brookins. She said there were registrations as late at 11:58 p.m. the night before. Brookins said the large attendance depleted the club’s supply of 200 shirts before the race even began.
The ride started with a mass start at 7:30 a.m. led by a police escort up Main Street in Chiefland. Riders then split up, taking in the trails at their own pace.
There were five routes to choose from, ranging from an 18 mile ride to and from Fanning Springs and a 100-mile ride across the Tri-County area.
Jenny Hanson, mayor of Yankeetown, was impressed with her first-ever ride along the Nature Coast State Bike Trail, which composed the bike ride. “It’s been a wonderful ride with a nice canopy,” Hanson said. “I haven’t had to be in the shade once.”
Clarence Quast of Ocala also enjoyed the ride.
“The only thing better than the trail is the people,” Quast said.