Grant to benefit watermelon festival revival

In November, the Jackson County Visitor Center made the decision that the entirety of the $20,000 fall developmental grant should go to Brownstown Ewing Main Street for its revival of the Jackson County Watermelon Festival coming up in August.

Arann Banks, executive director of the visitor center, said the grant is meant for an event that will have more of a tourism focus and bring people to the county, which is different from the visitor center’s promotional grant.

The $20,000 grant check was presented to Luke Nolting, president of the Brownstown Ewing Main Street board of directors, during a recent visitor center board meeting. Nolting was at the meeting to accept the check in Conner Barnette’s absence. Barnette is vice chairman of Brownstown Ewing Main Street and chairman of the Jackson County Watermelon Festival.

Nolting said Barnette is the one who has done all of the work behind the watermelon festival.

“The project stemmed from two years ago when our board started discussing it, and in the conversation, we talked about how Medora has a festival, Freetown has a festival and Seymour has a festival,” he said. “How ever many years ago, it was before my time, the watermelon festival in Brownstown dissolved.”

Nolting said they had tossed around various ideas, such as barbecues and cook-offs, and the idea was brought up to bring back the watermelon festival with the mindset of if they were bringing it back, they were going to do it right.

“Conner and a committee consisting of some people from Brownstown Ewing Main Street and other community members came back with what that might look like,” he said. “They had a couple of businesses and individuals who graciously donated a large chunk of money, which will obviously help do wonders.”

He said the event will feature music, performers and vendors, and local farmers will provide the watermelons.

“So we’re excited, and several acts have already been booked, so we plan on blocking off the square around the courthouse and we’ll have a variety of nice, chic items available from vendors,” Nolting said. “The committee wants the music to be strong, the vendors to be strong and they want the food to be strong.”

He said it’s important to them that the watermelon festival gets started off on the right foot.

“We want to be able to start it back the right way, and the hope is that through donations we’ve received from some businesses and individuals and this grant, based on the figures through tickets and what will be made, that the festival will sustain itself in 2023 and moving forward,” Nolting said.

He mentioned how the concert series in Brownstown over the last couple of years has continued to grow, and Brownstown Ewing Main Street is fortunate to hold those concerts thanks to various grants and support from Brownstown and Jackson County.

The 2023 Jackson County Watermelon Festival’s Rock the Rind will be packed with music on the Heritage Park stage.

In early January, it was announced Sara Evans, Christine Kindred and Cody Ikerd and the Sidewinders will take the stage Aug. 4 across from the courthouse at 121 E. Walnut St.

On Friday, it was announced that The Steel Woods, Alex Williams, Slade Coulter, Isaac Rudd and the Revolvers and Taylor Cromer will perform as part of the Aug. 5 lineup at the festival.

Tickets are available for purchase online at To stay up to date on the festival and Rock the Rind, go to and like the page or visit