A Brief History of the Watermelon Festival
The Pageland Watermelon Festival was first organized in July 1951 as the vision of the Pageland Merchant’s Association who wished to promote the many watermelon growers in our area. The first planning meeting took place in June of that year; and the next month, on July 12, the festival was born! The steering committee expected 5,000 people to be on hand for the first annual event.
The premiere festival boasted a 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 hosted 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 a brief hiatus in the 1970’s, Pageland has hosted the annual event each July to great acclaim. Pageland is famous far and wide for this long-running tradition, and it is a great source of pride for the community. While July in South Carolina is the hottest time of the year, we hold the celebration of Pageland’s noted crop in the height of summer when the farmers are bringing the ripe melons out of the fields.
With a parade, seed spitting contest, rodeo, games, beauty pageant, amusement rides, and concerts, the Pageland Watermelon Festival celebrates our heritage as an agrarian community. Hosted by the Pageland Chamber of Commerce, the festival has grown so that the planning stages require volunteers to meet each year beginning 6-8 months in advance. The work is shared by many citizens 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.
The Pageland Watermelon Festival is a fun time for all in Pageland, and we welcome our out-of-town guests. Plan to join us for this year’s festival in July!