When the 48th annual Jackson County Watermelon Festival kicks off its three-day run Friday in downtown Brownstown, visitors will notice a few new features.
The idea of a Miss Jackson County Watermelon Festival queen contest came from festival committee members attending the Indiana State Festivals Association convention this year, committee President Esther Hall said. The contest was conducted in August after posting notices about it on the festival’s website and Facebook page.
Lutisha Gregory of Seymour won the title and a $500 scholarship, which came from community donations.
“We only had three (contestants); but next year, I’m sure it will be bigger,” Hall said.
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Gregory, first runner-up Jaelyn Perry and second runner-up Ippaishah Phillips will assist with the baby contest, cake walk, watermelon slicing and other events. They will be introduced at 10 a.m. Saturday before participating in the parade at 1 p.m.
Gregory also will compete in the Indiana State Festival Association Scholarship Pageant during the organization’s fall convention in November in Indianapolis, where she will have the opportunity to win additional scholarships.
Also new this year is a beer garden. Festival committee members and volunteers from the community will help Bartholomew County Beverage operate the stand, which will be in a fenced-in area on East Cross Street on the south side of the Jackson County Courthouse. It will be open from 3 to 10 p.m. Friday and from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday.
Those helping work the stand received temporary permits to be able to sell beer.
“We had been talking about it for a while. Our date became available, and we decided to do it this year,” Hall said of the beer garden.
Another new activity is cow patty bingo, set for 1 p.m. Sunday. Hall said there will be 150 squares on the ground, and people can purchase a square for $5. A cow will be brought in, and wherever its cow patty lands, the person with that number wins half of the money raised.
“One of the committee members saw it somewhere and said it was pretty fun, so we thought we needed more fun activities,” Hall said.
Booths open at 3 p.m. Friday, with the opening ceremony at 5 p.m. That evening, there will be karaoke, a bike race, a tricycle obstacle course, a watermelon sack race and live music.
Saturday’s activities will begin with a 5K run/walk at 8 a.m. There also will be a baby contest, a blood drive, a watermelon crawl, a toddler trot and a couple of groups performing before the parade at 1 p.m.
This year’s parade grand marshal is Larry Hinkle, who was a teacher and coach at Brownstown Central High School for 42 years until retiring in 2006. He was inducted into the school’s Athletic Hall of Fame in 2012.
Also Saturday, there will be a car show, watermelon seed spitting and bubble gum blowing contests, a library book read and performances by local musicians and a martial arts group before fireworks at 10 p.m.
A morning sermon at 11 a.m. opens activities Sunday. The popular watermelon steal and watermelon eating contests will be conducted in the afternoon, and the festival will end with a closing ceremony and drawings at 4:45 p.m.
Throughout the weekend, free watermelon slices will be offered, and whole watermelons will be sold. Proceeds will be matched and donated to a local nonprofit organization, Hall said. The watermelons and slices will be provided by Kamman’s Farm Market near Vallonia.
All weekend during the festival, the Jackson County History Center is planning activities at its campus at Walnut and Sugar streets, and the ESA Delta Delta sorority will conduct a cake walk.
The festival, which celebrates the harvest of Jackson County watermelons, also features a variety of food and craft vendors.
“What I think is good about it is it gives families things to do in the community,” Hall said of the festival. “It’s definitely a family tradition, a community tradition, as well.”
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For information, visit jcwfest.org or facebook.com/JacksonCountyWatermelonFestival or pick up a festival guide at The Peoples Bank, Spurgeon Insurance or at the festival.
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48th annual Jackson County Watermelon Festival
3 p.m.: Booths open
5 p.m.: Opening ceremony
5:15 p.m.: Karaoke
5:30 p.m.: Bike race (ages 3 to 17)
6 p.m.: Tricycle obstacle course (ages 18 and up)
7 p.m.: TADA
7 p.m.: Watermelon sack race
8:30 p.m.: Smalltown Throwdown
8 a.m.: 5K run/walk
9 a.m.: Cutest baby contest (registration begins at 8:15 a.m.; $5)
10 a.m.: Royal court crowning
10 a.m.: Blood drive
11 a.m.: Stars and Stripes
11 a.m.: Watermelon crawl
11:30 a.m.: Toddler trot
Noon: Country Kickers
1 p.m.: Parade (registration begins at 11 a.m.)
2 p.m.: Car show (registration $10)
2 p.m.: Ko’s Martial Arts Academy demonstration
2 p.m.: Library book read
3 p.m.: Sparkles and Spurs
4 p.m.: Jill McIntosh King
5 p.m.: Watermelon seed spitting contest
6 p.m.: Lonesome Crow
6:30 p.m.: Bubble gum blowing contest
8 p.m.: Six Ways To Sunday
10 p.m.: Fireworks
11 a.m.: Morning sermon
Noon: First Pentecostal Church Sign Team
1 p.m.: Cow patty bingo
2 p.m.: Watermelon steal
3 p.m.: Watermelon eating contest
3 p.m.: Acoustic Crossroads
4:45 p.m.: Closing ceremony/drawings