A Brief History of the Watermelon Festival
The Pageland Watermelon Festival began in July, 1951. Founding fathers, the Pageland Merchant’s Association, wanted to promote the many watermelon growers in our area. The first meeting took place in June that year and the next month, on July 12th the festival was born! The steering committee expected 5,000 people to be on hand for the first annual event.
The premiere festival boasted watermelon eating contest, a huge parade with plenty of queens and several marching bands from nearby high schools. Of course, there was a beauty pageant with the evening entertainment beforehand being a speaker from Clemson College Extension Service. A street dance followed featuring the live band, Whitaker’s Whirling Whangdoodlers.
The festival grew fast, as the second annual event laid host to 15,000 parade watchers. The festival continued to grow each year and surrounding towns began entering floats in the parade in 1953. Fund raising became important with the growth. By 1955, the crowd was estimated at 40,000 for the entire event and the Water Shed hosted one of its first shows.
With the exception of just a few years, the annual event has taken place each July. Yes, it has to be in that hottest part of the year, because that’s when the farmers are bringing the melons, ripe for the picking, out of the fields.
With melon races, seed spitting contest, rodeos, softball tournaments, pageants, carnivals and music, we celebrate our heritage each year. Now hosted by the Pageland Chamber of Commerce, the festival has grown so that the planning stages require volunteers to meet each year beginning in February. The work is shared by many folks who love Pageland and want to see this important event continue. Call our Chamber of Commerce office if you would like to volunteer for this year’s festival. We have a place that needs you, no matter how much time you have to give.
We also have a blog on this website that will give you a look at the festival through a volunteer’s eyes. First up is Clara Hayes, who headed up the festival for many years. You can also comment on our event – past or present.
It is a fun time for all in Pageland and we welcome our out of town guest. Plan to join us for this year’s festival in July!