Friday, 01 February 2008
By Virginia DeBolt of First 50 Words
It was Watermelon Day. Grandma produced a Radio Flyer and we set off from her three-story rooming house on Main Street. We walked the few blocks to the county fair grounds at the end of Main Street, pulling the empty wagon behind us.
Just going to the fair grounds when the fair was in town was exciting. I wanted to ride the rides, see the sights, but Grandma made sure I knew that wouldn't be happening today. It was Watermelon Day and we had business to take care of.
It's hot in southern Colorado in late summer when the watermelons and cantaloupes our little town is famous for ripen. By the time we reach the fair grounds, sweat trickles down our backs and my upper lip tastes of salt.
We enter the big main gate and step into the middle of the dust and noise and music of the county fair. Grandma steadfastly pulls the wagon past the booths with ring toss games, shooting gallery games, guessing games, and places where you can test your strength. I drag my feet in the dusty grass, trying to slow her down so I can smell the sweetness from the cotton candy booth, gawk at the Ferris wheel, or glimpse myself in the mirrors by the fun house. I look longingly at the sno cones as we trudge steadily toward the 4-H area where the animals are, and where the big pile of watermelons waits.
The watermelons are stacked up higher than my head under a long open-sided building with a roof. There must be millions of them, sitting there in the shade looking green and cool. All the grown ups mill around and I have to stand close to Grandma and be good for a long time. Then suddenly everyone dashes toward the watermelons and starts carrying off as many as they can.
I think Grandma is brilliant at this because she gets four great big old heavy watermelons in our red wagon. We start walking for home, a little slower this time because we're hotter than ever and the wagon is heavy. I offer to pull it, but Grandma says I'm too little. But I can push from behind.
That night we have a big party in the back yard, in the grass between where Grandma's big house sits and the little brick apartments behind it sit.
Everyone is there. My mom and dad, my cousins and aunt, my other grandmother. We sit in the grass and we share the watermelons and we talk and laugh and play. I twirl around and around on the grass until I fall down and I think that I can't wait for the next Watermelon Day.
[Note from the author: Rocky Ford, Colorado, is called "The Melon Capitol of the World" and is famous for its cantaloupes and watermelons. This photo is from 1904, so the spectacle of Watermelon Day has gone on for some time in Rocky Ford.]