Watermelon Festival delivers the smiles
At 1:30 Saturday afternoon, the De Soto VWF Ladies Auxiliary found all the walking tacos in its De Soto Watermelon Festival food booth had walked off in the hands of customers.
"We're sold out," said a resting Glenda Bull. "That's what we want to be."
Up and down the food concession line Saturday at Miller Park, vendors reported good business. Two to three-deep lines jammed the booths for two hours after the downtown parade ended at 11 a.m.
By 2 p.m. Saturday, the festival committee had carved up an estimated 80 of the 150 watermelons it brought in for the event. Darrell Prock predicted the remaining 70 would be gone before the night was over,
Learning from last year's triple digit heat, festival organizations rented a large tent to provide shade for this year's craft show.
Sisters Pat Law of Meridan, Wanda Nott of Holton and Rita Cattrell of Circleville had a choice location in front of a fan near the tent's south entrance to market their quilts. Three-year veterans of the festival, they said they were having a good day, but were in a mood to bargain..
"We haven't got rid of everything yet, but we're working on it," Law said. "If we get rid of it all, it makes packing up a lot easier."
Watermelon Festival Chairman Max Atwell didn't have estimates of attendance but said crowds appeared to be better than last year. For all the concerns about the heat, the only weather that threatened the festival was rain.
"We were lucky. We were kind of in between the rains," he said. "The carnival was happy, the parade people were happy, the crafters were happy and the food vendors were happy, so I guess everything went well.
As well as the festival went, uncertainties cloud its immediate future. The problem, Atwell said, is that Evans Midland Empire Carnival will not be able to return to De Soto during the fourth weekend in August for the next two years.
"In 2004, it will work itself out," he said. "They carnival can come earlier in June or later in October next year, but both those dates have problems for us."
Miller Park, especially the ball fields, are used much more extensively in June, Atwell said. It would also require the festival's volunteers to start planning next year's event immediately. An October date would put the De Soto festival in competition with other area fall festivals, he said.
Another alternative would be to go without the carnival for the next two years, Atwell said.
"We wouldn't have the big rides, but there are individuals around with smaller rides we could use," he said. "It could be done, but we would need a lot of help from the community. We need more people to volunteer so that the volunteers we do have don't have to do as many jobs."