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Water Valley Watermelon Carnival Continues To Attract New Crowds

This year’s winners of the Largest Watermelon competition pose proudly with their oversized fruit.

Saturday, August 5 was a day to remember at the 48th annual Watermelon Carnival. With lots of fun events, street vendors and food, this year’s festival attracted many new and old faces to Water Valley. 

“It was a blast, this has been the first watermelon eating contest my family and I have ever done,” Tony Valdez, first-time watermelon carnival attendant who recently moved from Illinois to Mississippi, said. 
A clear, blue sky made Saturday a perfect day for outside activities. While temperatures increased throughout the day, a large slice of watermelon and a fresh lemonade helped keep the crowds cool. 
Tony Valdez wins third place in the watermelon seed spitting competition, 18 years and up, during his first trip to the Carnival.

 “It’s good,”  Aniyha Riddle, age 10, and Aubrey Devault, age 7, of Oxford, said. “I like the games, the race, and the watermelon,” 
One of the first activities of the day was a 5K run/walk at 7:30 a.m. The running trail, which started at the Railroad Park in the middle of the town, took participants through Water Vally’s scenic, historic locations. The top 100 finishers, such as Riddle and Devault, won medals for their hard work. 
Meanwhile, in the city park, vendors were opening their booths for customers to view. Vendors sold serval unique items such as bird feeders, home made toys, jewelry, pickles, jellies, yard decorations and art work. Several food trucks were also stationed in the park selling classic fair goodies such as funnel cakes, ice cream and chicken on a stick. 
Brooklyn Devault, age 4, throws a watermelon during the watermelon throwing competition.

“There are more quality vendors now,” Coolidge Ball, of Oxford’s Ball Sign Company, said. “I have been coming to the festival for the past 20 years, and I have even started coming on Friday nights.” 
Though many of the vendors were annual attendees, many new vendors who came from far and wide to sell their merchandise. Some vendors came from as far as California and Arizona to pitch their tents and make some extra cash. 
“It was really nice,” Carroll Alexander, first-time festival vendor from Smith County, said. I have really enjoyed the good natured people, the festival layout and all the good merchandise.” 
Just across the road, dozens of barbecue smokers were firing up for the eighth annual Train Track Pork Attack Barbecue Cooking Competition. Serval barbecue teams fought to be ranked number one in a series of categories. 
“We started cooking at 6:00 a.m. that morning,” Joe Jenkins, a barbecue cook-out contestant from Oakland, said. “You first have to get the fire really hot before you put your meat out.” 
This year’s Grand Champion was Victory Lane, a barbecue team from Olive Branch. The team was also last year’s champion and first place winner in the categories for ribs and pork. As the winner of the grand championship, they won a $1,500 cash prize. 
Heath Riles and Wife, owners of Victory Lane, won the grand championship for their barbeque for the second year in a row.

Victory Lane was also the winner of the Memphis BBQ “team of the year” award for 2014, 2015 and 2016, and they are currently in the lead for 2017. 
“It’s all about consistency,” Heath Riles, Victory Lane’s owner, said. “ I always try to do the same thing for every contest.” 
No matter if you are new to the festival or experienced, there was something for everyone to do. As an act of unity, Cayce Washington cut up and served fresh watermelon to the public for free. Festival goers young and old stood in line to get a juice piece of yellow/pink melon to eat together and celebrate. 

“It’s a time for the town to come together,” Gary Bratton, a resident of Water Valley, said. “There is lots of stuff for the kids and everyone looks forward to it.”

Allen Brewer is an intern for HottyToddy.com. He can be reached at agbrewer@go.olemiss.edu

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