The Watermelon People

Slices of watermelon line a table during the Pageland Watermelon Festival.

You never know for sure what’s going to happen when it comes to an outdoor summer festival in the Carolinas.

It might be clear.

It might rain.

It might be hot.

It might be hotter.

You may have long lines.

You might have shorter lines.

However, if it’s been going for many years and is at about the same time each year, you have a good idea about what’s going to happen.

Not so long ago, I traveled to Pageland to produce a segment on the long-running Pageland Watermelon Festival. I met with Tim Griffin, the festival director, and Sherri Honeycutt, a committee chair. They are — as are all the other committee chairs and members — volunteers.

The festival has been going for 68 years. For the most part, it is a yearlong planning process with only a short break just after the festival ends each year. I’m sure everyone needs a break.

My original thoughts were to produce a standard 6-minute segment on the festival which would include about a half-day visit. The show had visited the festival for a segment about eight years ago, so I had a reasonable idea of what would be happening.

As our conversation progressed, I began to hear a much bigger story developing. It was more than a festival; it was about a community working together for the benefit of their hometown. A celebration of heritage, agriculture, beauty queens, entertainment and yes, the humble watermelon.

The decision was made to work toward developing a special that would highlight the people of Pageland and others who have chosen to be part of this massive project, now and over the past 68 years.

The decision was also made for Life In The Carolinas to go Live for the Parade. This task would require a great deal of support including fiber installation to handle our data streaming requirements. Sandhill’s Telephone was able to step in and make this happen, once again demonstrating community support.

The 2019 festival would have a few new things and a few older traditions added back to the festival lineup. The watermelon relay race was brought back and would proceed the highly anticipated Watermelon Festival Parade.

A new “dance-off” was added at noon on Saturday, shortly after the parade. Two music stages would feature almost nonstop entertainment on Friday and Saturday until the festival ends.

The week before the big festival, the plans called for the selection of the official Watermelon Festival Beauty Queens, an airplane fly-in, a golf tournament and a Sunday gospel singing. All being administered by volunteers and secured by roughly 50 members of the Pageland Police Department and Chesterfield County Sheriff’s Office.

Tim is the president of the Pageland Chamber of Commerce. He lives in Pageland and has long been a tireless promoter of the good in Pageland. It was Tim who contacted our TV show several years ago about visiting Pageland.

Sherri is the clerk of court in Pageland. She is not a resident, but she loves where she works. She said it’s because of the people.

Pageland is a special place. Like the watermelon, there is debate as to what it is. Is it a fruit or a vegetable? It really depends on who you ask.

Is Pageland a good place to visit because of the Watermelon Festival, or is the Watermelon Festival a great event to visit because of the people of Pageland?

From my observations, it’s the people. So, visit the festival for sure, but then plan your travels to Pageland other times. Slow down and visit with the merchants and maybe catch a movie at the historic Ball Theatre.

Take a little time and get to know the colorful people in this little Southern Town with a few hidden treasures worth looking for.

It’s worth the effort because I think they have figured out a few things along the way, but they will be the first to let you know they are still working on it.

I’ll let you know when we finish the special. There will be more stories to share for sure.

By the way, the 2019 Pageland Watermelon Festival was a big success and we had a great time.

See you at the watermelon stand!

Carl White is the executive producer and host of the award winning syndicated TV show “Carl White’s Life In the Carolinas.” Visit www.lifeinthecarolinas.com, email White at Carl@lifeinthecarolinas.com