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Friday, 01 February 2008

Watermelon Day

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.

Watermelon Day 1904

[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.]

Posted by Ronni Bennett at 02:30 AM | Permalink | Email this post


Virginia, I'll bet I ate my share of watermelons and cantaloupe from Rocky Ford while I was growing up in Colorado Springs. They were the best tasting ones I have ever eaten.

Hi Virginia,

I loved your story and felt that I had walked all the way to Watermelon Day and back with you because you were so descriptive.

I especially liked your longing to stop at the cotton candy and sno cone stands. Now that you are an adult, you would probably pass both of them by.....

What a delightful story. Thank you.

I wish I had some now!

What a great story Virginia. I felt like I was right there along for the ride. I could almost spit the seeds out. Thanks so much.

Hi, Virginia,
Thanks for nice story to read on a wet, chilly Sunday like we're having right now.
Made me feel like it's summer already.

I came upon three photos by P.E. Kennedy of the Rocky Ford 1904 Watermelon Day among my family's photo collection. The photos are copyrighted. I am just curious.

I am PE Kennedy's great grandson and am interested in seeing scans of ANY photos he took. I have uncovered postcards of some of the photos he took and sold in a general store in Rocky Ford and later in Goldfield, Nevada. [Yeah for eBay - I have two of the Rocky Ford PCs that I bought from 2 different sources on eBay that even have his writing on them (verified YESTERDAY using writing on the back of family photos).] The relative most likely to have the negatives [oldest son of PE's oldest son - my Mom's first cousin] has copies of some photos, but no negatives.

Hi Bruce, I tried to trace back to Jennifer for you in hopes you could contact her about the photos, but the URL she left when she made the contact is not helpful. Good luck with your quest. –Virginia

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