CAVE CITY, Ark. (KAIT) – The town of Cave City and festival goers from all over the country are kicking off the 40th annual Watermelon Festival this week.
Locals and watermelon farmers all agree the festival has seen a lot of changes over the years.
Phillip Johnson and his brother have been farming watermelons over 40 years.
“It’s the identity, when you mention Cave City, that’s what most people think of is watermelons,” said Johnson.
Rusty Wooldridge is a fourth-generation watermelon farmer. He believes that the world’s sweetest melons are something the registered growers in the area take pride in.
“It’s kind of a privilege to raise watermelons, you know my family’s done it all these years so I get to carry on the tradition,” said Wooldridge.
From one of the youngest registered growers to a seasoned farmer like Johnson who saw the first festival, everyone in Cave City agrees things have changed over the years.
“40 years ago sometimes it was a challenge to sell watermelons,” said Johnson.
Julie Johnson works with the Watermelon Festival Committee, noting she remembers the first Watermelon Festival.
“The first year we had a festival, it was a one-day event,” said Johnson. “Now it’s taken on more of a homecoming feel and the entire town gets behind it.”
The festival isn’t just for locals though, this year, committee members said at least 14 different states would be in town to try the famous watermelons.
“You’d be surprised where all people come from just for the watermelons and the watermelon festival,” said Wooldridge.
While Cave City celebrates their biggest festival yet, there are a lot of hopes for the future.
“I hope there’s always someone that takes pride in it and wants to see it continue,” said Johnson.
Right now, there are only a handful of registered growers, and only two from the younger generation.
“I think me and one other grower, we’re the same age and we’re the youngest two and I would like to see our younger generation carry on the tradition,” said Wooldridge.
Cave City’s registered growers plan to keep the town’s tradition alive, and start preparing for the 41st Watermelon festival.
“Watermelons should be about fun. It should be about enjoyment, about having a good time about being with people,” said Phillip Johnson, “I’m proud to be apart of that, you know we need a lot more joy in the world it seems like, and watermelons is a part of that.”
The Watermelon Festival will continue Friday and Saturday.
For a full list of events, and the concert line-up, visit the Cave City Watermelon Festival website here.
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