Water Valley, MS prides itself on its annual Watermelon Carnival. This town of approximately 3,700 residents names this celebration as its claim to fame, drawing thousands of visitors each year to enjoy the carnival's pageant, music, contests and other activities.
Citizens of Water Valley held the first Watermelon Carnival in 1931 in order to lift the community's morale in the wake of the Great Depression. The carnival was an opportunity for residents to have a good time and to celebrate life and included a parade, a beauty pageant and a ball. But when World War II broke out, the town stopped celebrating the Watermelon Carnival and it wasn't until 1980 that residents revived this festival. Today, the Carnival is an annual event, occurring each year in early August and attracting as many as 20,000 visitors.
The Carnival acts as a homecoming of sorts for Water Valley. As such, the town holds a pageant and awards a local girl the title of Watermelon Queen. Other youths are elected as members of her court. On Friday, opening ceremonies are held at the gazebo in City Park, where the Watermelon Queen and her entourage are introduced. Fireworks cap off the evening's activities.
Music is another big part of the festival, featuring local acts that play family favorites, country and bluegrass. The music typically begins the Thursday night before the festival, with a concert held in the Civic Auditorium. Previous acts have included Brittany Russel & the Trunk Monkeys, Michael Locke and Tomfoolery. A street dance is held in City Park on Friday, while local bands play throughout Saturday in City Park.
A little friendly competition is another big part of the Watermelon Carnival. Besides the beauty pageant, the city also encourages residents and visitors to compete in a watermelon-eating competition, a barbecue cook-off and a seed-spitting contest on Saturday. Other attractions that day include an annual car show and inflatable bounce houses and rides for kids. Guests can also purchase festival foods, arts and crafts and watermelon-themed wares throughout the festival.
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