De Soto Watermelon Festival seeds ready to sprout
Annual celebration to kick off Thursday
Things were looking festive in Miller Park two days before the official start of the De Soto Watermelon Festival.
As a visual reminder of things to come, Evans Midwest Empire Show's Ferris wheel towered over the park by midday Tuesday. The festival will kick off with the carnival's traditional Thursday wrist band night, said Watermelon Festival Chairman Max Atwell. Those purchasing a $13 wrist band can ride the carnival's attractions all night, he said.
Eight food vendors will also be on hand Thursday, Atwell said. Nine food vendors are scheduled to be at the festival Friday, and the number will balloon to 15 Saturday, the day the Watermelon Committee will sell the event's namesake treat.
"We pick the watermelons up Friday morning," Atwell said. "If we hadn't ordered early we wouldn't have any. There isn't any around here this year."
This year's festival corresponds with Labor Day Weekend. Pat Atchison, parade committee chairperson, and Kathy Ross, food and craft committee chairperson, said the holiday has had an effect on their planning.
"It's funny," Atchison said. "We're not getting some of the people we usually get, but we're hearing from people we don't usually hear from."
Ross said competition from other traditional holiday shows contributed to a decline in the number of crafters this year. As of Tuesday, about 22 crafters and eight commercial vendors had signed up for the festival, she said. But Ross said that number would increase.
"I'm still getting calls," she said.
The parade committee is striving to get a mix of entries that reflect this year's parade theme of "Celebrating the Varied Cultures and Arts of De Soto," Atchison said. Although she wouldn't yet estimate the number of entries, she predicted the parade would have more floats and, not surprisingly in an election year, politicians.
Parade participants are asked to start lining up at 8:30 a.m. Saturday, Atchison said. Cars scheduled to be in the festival's car show are to line up at the Baptist church at 8655 Church Street, horses at Lexington Trails Middle School at 8800 Penner Ave., and other entries at De Soto High School, 35000 W. 95th St., she said. Water and restroom facilities will be available at De Soto High School. The school district will provide a route behind the middle school that avoids construction at Lexington Trails, she said.
For the first time in a number of years, Saturday night's street dance will return to a downtown location. A stage will be set up at the intersection of 83rd and Wea streets, Atwell said.
Raffle tickets and festival T-shirts will be available downtown at Grandma's Shop, 33055 W. 83rd Street through Friday, Ross said. The Watermelon Festival Committee will be selling drinks and snacks at the store Saturday morning, she said.