Watermelon Festival Wraps Up in Jefferson County

Right now the talk of Monticello, Florida seems to center around the watermelon. This year marks the 54th Annual Watermelon Festival.

Mary Drawdy, co-chair for the 2004 Watermelon Festival, says, "There's no way to get the exact number that comes, but the town is packed with people."

Mary Drawdy is co-chair of this year's festival and says the economic impact for the town is unbelievable.

"They do a lot of shopping in the town. The restaurants are all packed and full, places to stay, people come for the rodeo, people fill up the motels."

And they've done so for years, however, some in Jefferson County fear recent weather may have hurt this year's watermelon crop.

Ronnie Thor, a watermelon seller, says, "There's been a decline and it seems like the melons are out a little later this year due to the rain and the cooler weather.”

Ronnie Thor says he started seeing a decline in the early 90's, so this year's crop shouldn't cause alarm.

"They're just late, but they're here in time for the festival itself, so I think everything will work out alright."

One Jefferson County man whose come from a family of watermelon farmers says the business has been hurt by increased labor and seed costs, but says despite the changes, Jefferson County remains a watermelon capital.

Marty Bishop’s family raises watermelons and adds, "Oh yeah, it's still going to be a big one with those two or three farmers we have left planting those watermelons; people in Jefferson and the surrounding areas are still going to have a good time."

This year's festivities will wrap up Saturday starting with a 5-K run in the morning and continuing with the big parade followed by a long list of fun filled activities, and of course lots of watermelon!