Chipley, FL - If you're looking for something to do this weekend, you may want to head out to the Watermelon Festival in Chipley. It's been running now for 55 years, and despite the extreme drought across the Panhandle, most farmers have managed to salvage their crops.
Final touches on the festival were underway Friday afternoon at the Washington County Agricultural Center. What started as a simple harvest celebration between farmers has grown into a Panhandle-wide event.
"The community really does come together and support this. I mentioned the sponsors that help pay for it. But there are also many a number of volunteers. There are volunteers that I don't even know who they are, they just do things and things get done, the city gets decorated," said Judge Colby Peel, Chairman of the Watermelon Festival.
Judge Peel said this year's fesitval is expected to draw thousands of Panhandle residents to Chipley this weekend.
"We'll bring a lot of people to Washington County, and with a headliner like John Anderson and it being a free concert, we expect to have a huge crowd tonight," said Judge Peel.
Country music star John Anderson kicks off the two-day event Friday night with a concert at Pals Park. Then Saturday there will be a pancake breakfast, a five-thousand meter run, and several other festivities, all leading up to the famous downtown parade. Free watermelon will also be given out on Saturday.
Judge Peel said the festival will pump thousands of dollars into the local economy.
"Our goal there is to bring and put the heads into beds, so to speak, in the motels here to fill the motels up, to fill our restaurants up. You know they'll buy gas when they're in town," said Judge Peel.
Festival officials said the entire weekend's events cost about thirty-thousand dollars.
Farmers said the drought has impacted their watermelon yields, but the ones that made it actually taste better than usual because they're smaller.