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Street Talk

Original Carnivals Helped Brand Local Melons

By Mickey Howley

This coming weekend is the annual Watermelon Carnival. Once again it is that time of year to gather and pay homage to the mighty melons of Water Valley and enjoy their sweet ripe juiciness.

Part of the original intent of the Watermelon Carnival was to brand Water Valley watermelons nationwide.  Think about place and produce names like Vidalia onions or Indian River oranges.

The original association of that produce with towns or an area was the result of a concerted branding or marketing effort in the late 1920s and early 30s, a time when the transportation system was advanced enough where fragile and perishable produce could be shipped quickly enough nationwide.

That type of branding is still going on. Just to the south, Vardaman is known for its sweet potatoes and much further to the south, Ponchatoula, La., is known for their strawberries. Both of those towns have long running festivals to celebrate their local produce.  

The group that had the idea for the  first Watermelon Carnival were a visionary bunch and while there were multiple reasons for putting on the carnival (just to have fun is reason enough) the idea of promoting Water Valley via a celebration featuring the local melons was a good one.

Every year I hear people say (often it is the same ones) they love the Watermelon Carnival but hate the heat. I’ll agree last year was pretty hot, the forecast for this one looks a bit cooler, but it is August in Mississippi and that means you are going to sweat. The question is just how much.

 If you positively can’t be outside or just feeling the need to get out of the heat, there are two climate-controlled events. Thursday night at 7pm is the Watermelon Music Festival at the Civic Auditorium. Very climate controlled. There will be a number of groups performing.

Some of those in the line up will be the Valley Dancers, the Sharecroppers will also play, with my favorite jamming Circuit Clerk Daryl Burney.  John Milstead is on the card as well. Come and enjoy the entertainment.

All weekend long Bozarts Gallery at 403 North Main will be open. Friday night from 6 to 9 is the artist opening reception for 4th North Mississippi Regional Art Show.  Sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce with help from the Water Valley Arts Council, the show is also open Saturday from 10 to 4 and Sunday from 1 to 3.  

Tupelo based food stylist David Leathers will be creatively carving melons at the Gallery from 2 to 4 on Saturday. The opening reception, gallery showing, food carving demonstration are all free and air conditioned.

The Farmers Market will be this Saturday (as usual) from 8 to 11 under the big magnolia in Railroad Park. Pick up some fresh produce early or just come by and have a coffee before you head over to the Watermelon Carnival.

Last week’s survey had  Holly Springs as the favorite North Mississippi Main Street town other than Water Valley. If you have not been to Holly Springs recently, you should go see it again. Their square is looking good and they have a new Mississippi Blues Trail marker.  

Visit to vote on your favorite Watermelon Carnival activity.

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