Chiefland watermelon festival growing

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Chiefland will celebrate the watermelon in its many forms when it welcomes visitors to the 58th Annual Watermelon Festival on Saturday from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m.
The festival is sponsored by the Chiefland Woman's Club with the help of the City of Chiefland and other groups and vendors who rent booths. The event is a fundraiser for the club, as well as a showcase for the area's biggest agricultural product.
This year's festival has a new event, the Tour de Melon bicycle ride. Folks can ride the local nature trails in a leisure ride or hit area roadways for a century ride — 100 miles. The ride is a fundraiser for the Suwannee Valley Rotary Club. More details later in this story.
There is also a change in schedule for the annual parade from Chiefland High School down U.S. Highway 19/Main Street to Depot Park. The parade will roll at 11 a.m. this year, a change from its usual 10 a.m. slot.
At the festival, which extends from the park onto nearby streets, there will be free slices of watermelon, children's activities and arts and crafts.
The festival opens at 7 a.m. with the two hour weigh-in of melons to determine the area's largest melon. Local farmers vie for the heaviest melon title.
Following the contest, there will be an auction of the winning melons at 11 a.m. on the park stage after the introduction of the watermelon royalty. Queens from watermelon festivals around the state and the Southeastern states will be on hand to celebrate.
It's such a big event the Friends of the Luther Callaway Library hold their semi-annual book sale in conjunction with the festival. There will be a large selection of books, including rare and out of print books available this year.  For more details, see the story on Page 6A.
At noon there is the seed spitting contest to find the person who can send a seed the farthest, followed by the watermelon eating contest at 1 p.m. and the watermelon roll at 2 p.m.
There will be musical entertainment and a square dance demonstration beginning at 9 a.m. on the stage.
For further information about the festival, an information booth will be available in front of the police department or you can call 493-0911.  


The Tour de Melon bike ride
The Tour de Melon, a bicycling event to benefit Levy County Youth Programs, will wind along picturesque back roads on Saturday, June 2, so motorists are being warned there’s a chance you’ll see riders in colorful bicycling apparel designed for visibility sharing the road.
Riders have traveled to our area to participate in Chiefland’s first ever Tour — an organized ride that travels the scenic roads of Levy and Gilchrist counties. The visiting cyclists will have their choice of riding on the Nature Coast State Trail, traveling between Chiefland, Trenton and Cross City or the other option the “Tour” offers is a 25, 50 or 100 mile road ride.
The road ride starts 7:30 a.m. Saturday June 2, with a mass rider start on U.S. Highway 19/Main Street at Park Avenue.  With a police escort the riders will speed down Chiefland’s Main Streetr and turn off at County Road 320. Losing the police escort at this point, riders will then use a variety of roads to make a 50-mile loop that travels mostly south, east and north of Chiefland, but as far north as Trenton.
 Recent changes to Florida’s bicycling laws, obligate bicyclists to obey traffic laws, just the same as motor vehicles, but also affords them the same rights to the road as motorized vehicles.
Paige Brookins, president of the Suwannee Valley Rotary Club said, “While Levy County’s rural roads aren’t as bicycling-friendly as other areas of Florida, the lack of traffic jams, gridlock and road rage that we enjoy, should have our visitors feeling a bit envious of our daily commutes.
"These athletes bring their families, stay in our inns and dine in our cafes.  Welcome them by waving, but don’t beep your horn, they might not be accustomed to truly friendly people."

Tour de Melon route maps.pdf1.04 MB