A Small Town Festival

watermelonI’m a collector – a collector of experiences, not possessions. For me, there is nothing better. As a traveler, I’m always looking for opportunities to add to my collection. In every small town, big city, and state we visit, I keep my eyes peeled for anything that promises to be interesting: events, museums, workshops, parks, exhibits, fairs, trails, galleries, festivals, beaches, and the like.

You never know when opportunity will present itself, but you must always be ready. Recently, I had such an opportunity.

On a quiet Saturday morning, we were headed to the store to restock our groceries when we came across a festival. No wonder the small town was so quiet, everyone in town seemed to be here. There is no time like the present to seize the day. Groceries were quickly forgotten as we pulled into a designated parking lot. Setting off to enjoy the local festivities we were presented with a question – How much watermelon can you eat? You can test your stomach’s holding capacity for the pink meat of this sweet fruit at the Watermelon Festival in Chiefland, Florida. Held annually on the first Saturday in June, this small town festival has something for everyone.

Festival goers can try their skill at the Watermelon Seed Spitting Contest, watch the floats in the Watermelon Parade, and enjoy intelligent, beautiful, young women square off against one another in hopes to win a scholarship at the Watermelon Pageant.

Children race from activity to activity. Some gravitate towards the giant wading pool with inflatable ride-on toys. Splashing about, they enjoy the cool water against the stifling heat. Others forego the water to jump on the bounce house.

Artists and craftsmen lay out their wares trying to entice customers into shelling out their hard-earned cash for items they just can’t resist.

If you’re in the mood for something a little more substantial than watermelon, you’re in luck. Food vendors are prepared to offer you the finest foods…gator, gyros, cracklins, snow cones, kettle corn, sandwiches, sausages, lemonades, and so much more.

How much watermelon can you eat? It is a question, anyone can easily answer at Chiefland’s Watermelon Festival.

However, it is a question I could’ve answered even if I hadn’t attended this event. None. I don’t actually like watermelon. Weird, I know. There is just something about the fruit, I’ve never cared for. My family all adore watermelon, and have never been able to understand my distaste for it. Nevertheless, I had fun adding the 62nd annual Watermelon Festival to my collection of experiences.

Watermelon Festival Information

 

 

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Sharing a Meal

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It’s the perfect time of year. The leaves on the trees have turned from green to bright hues of yellows, oranges, and red. The tree line in the park is ablaze with the magnificent colors.

Pulling on my sweatshirt, I settle down beside the campfire. The smell of our dinner cooking among the embers wafts up, floating along the air, mixing with the damp smell of earth.

“Sorry to interrupt, but we were wondering if you’d all be willing to sell us a few pieces of wood.” A soft voice breaks across the camp.

Turning towards the voice, I see a couple of teenage kids standing at the edge of the road. They look to be about my daughter’s age, maybe a couple years older. Standing, I smile in welcome. Moving towards the wood pile to get them what they need, I can’t help but laugh to myself as I see Nana heading towards them. Nana is a people person. She loves meeting new people, and collects friends where ever we go. She’ll have those kids sitting around the fire eating dinner with us, before they even know what’s happened.

Beaming, Nana welcomes them.”It’s a nice night, isn’t it? Come, gather around the fire. Nothing would please me more than to have you and yours, join me and mine. Dinner is about ready. There is more than enough. We’re having campfire packets. Have you ever had them? They are simple and delicious.”

“No, Ma’am. We didn’t mean to intrude. We were just hoping to get some wood to start a fire for our own dinner.” The young girl explained with a small smile of her own.

“Nonsense. You’re not intruding. Fellow travelers are always welcome. We have plenty. While we wait for dinner to finish cooking among the coals, we can share a story or two to while away the night.”

“Thank you, Ma’am. If you’re sure?” The young woman responded, casting an eye over our camp before looking to the young man quietly standing beside her.

“Of course, I’m sure. I can’t think of a nicer way to spend an evening than with good food and good company.” Beaming, she ushered them towards the fire to meet the rest of the family.

Scooting closer together, everyone shifted, making room for our guests. There is something relaxing and easy about a campfire and the smell of food cooking on an open fire. Before too long, we’ve gotten to know our new friends a little better.

Traveling from Maine to Texas, Craig and Jenny are driving down to surprise Jenny’s grandma who’ll be turning ninety-seven in a few weeks. They are good kids – not kids, really. In their early twenties, they are older than they look. Still kids to me. Craig is quiet and reserved while Jenny seems more open and outgoing. Both are a little hesitant and cautious. It’s understandable. I imagine they don’t quite know what to make of my crazy traveling family. We can be a lot to take.

Opening the campfire packets, we release the steam and the aromas into the air. The smell has everyone sniffing appreciatively.

“Wash up, everyone. Dinner is ready.” Nana calls as I begin dishing up the plates.

Food brings us together. It nourishes us. Food connects people in a way nothing else can. Sharing a meal is the same the world over. It is a time to talk, to laugh, and to appreciate the people around you.

Campfire Packet Recipe

Ingredients:

  1. Heavy Duty Tin Foil
  2. Chicken breast
  3. Cubed Potatoes
  4. 1 Green Bell Pepper, Seeded and Sliced into Strips
  5. 1 Orange Bell Pepper, Seeded and Sliced into Strips
  6. 1 Red Onion, Sliced into Strips
  7. 1 Garlic Cube, Sliced
  8. Olive Oil/Pam

Preparing:

  1. Lay out 2 sheets of your heavy duty tin foil.
  2. Spray both sheet liberally with Pam
  3. Place chicken breast in center of of first sheet of tin foil
  4. Add your potatoes, peppers, onion, and garlic around it.
  5. Top with the other sheet of heavy duty tin foil.
  6. Roll the edges tightly.
  7. Wrap each packet in another sheet of foil to secure.
  8. Cook in the hot coals of a campfire until the chicken is cooked and vegetables are tender.