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The Naples Watermelon Festival is one of the traditions of our small town. It is held each year on the last weekend of July. The 2002 festival was the biggest and best yet with an estimated 4500-5000 visitors. In 2003 the festival will be held on Friday and Saturday, July 25th and 26th, and Jason Green and his band from Hughes Springs has already been booked to perform at the VirGinia Fleming Pavilion on Saturday night from about 8 p.m. until midnight.There is traditionally a great barbeque feed on Friday night at the community center and there were over 600 people attending the one in 2003. Vendors from as far away as Washington state made it to the 2002 fetival. Plan to make it to Naples this year and have a great time.
Did you know the first Watermelon Festival was held on July 22, 1939?? It was organized by John Milton Heard, Marian Leeves, and Joe Fulcher. The first Watermelon Festival Queen was Martha Ann Smith. The festival was temporarily discontinued about 1959 and reactivated about twenty years later by Leon Cobb and Elton Brown. With help, we plan to keep it going continuously this time.
Miss Amy Lippe,18, a Naples native and a graduate of Pewitt HS, is the reigning 2002 Watermelon Festival Queen. She had the honor of cutting the first watermelon during the afternoon serving session. The other 2002 contestants for Watermelon Festival Queen were Brittany Nicole Hannah and Annie Beggs.

Windell Cobb was chosen as the Grand Marshall for the 2002 Watermelon Festival Parade. Windell was born and raised in the Naples area. He has his own automobile body shop business in Naples. He was instrumental in the acquisition of the new festival grounds. He is a member of the Naples Watermelon Festival Association and the Naples Boots & Saddle Club. He is married to lovely Patsy Tefteller and they have two sons and three grandsons. Windell was also named Naples' Citizen of the Year for 2002 by the Naples Chamber of Commerce.

Mr Marvin Ranes ran the watermelon shed the entire time I was growing up in Naples. The melons would be unloaded from wagons and trucks onto the shed and stacked according to grade or size. The larger the melon the better price received. After the melons were graded and stacked, the melons would then be loaded onto railway cars for shipment to parts unknown. The main market melon of the time was the "Black Diamond" variety as shown in the photo. The loaders would form a line and pass the melons from one to the other until they reached the stacker in the railway car or on the platform. I remember that the loaders would con John Allen Gibson into being the person who initially picked up the melon. That was the hardest job of all, except for the stacker at the other end of the line. John Allen built up some bulging muscles in those days. About every twentieth melon would "accidentally" be dropped somewhere along the line and the loaders would take a break and eat the heart out of the melon.

This photo was taken at the watermelon shed about 1950 judging from the model of the truck on the left. In the front row from left to right are Wes Vissering, John Paul Vissering, Franklin Hampton, Billy Roberts, Randall Ranes, Keith Higgins, and M G McIntyre. In the back row are Jesse Mills, Jack Vissering, Marvin Ranes, an unknown fellow, Shelby Jolly, and Benny Minton.

This was one of our smaller parades, but...............

it grew and............

grew, and.......

grew!!!!!! There is usually a parade around 7 p.m. on Thursday to kick off the rodeo and the festival proceedings, but the big parade is on Saturday morning and begins at 10 a.m. The parade consists of just about everything, lots of horses, wagons and teams, old cars, ATV's, bicycles, ambulances and fire trucks and police cars with their sirens all going at once. And there are lots of floats!! All the contestants for "royalty" positions will ride in the parade, plus reigning "royalty".

Some of the people that make the Watermelon Festival possible. From the top clockwise are Sharon Moore, Windell Cobb, Patsy Cobb, VirGinia Fleming and Carabeth Luckey.

Another photo of some people that have made the Naples Watermelon Festival a reality. Standing, from left to right are Deryl May, Wade Cobb, Marshall Cobb, Willie Giles Smith, Elton Brown, VirGinia Fleming, ??, and Tony Cobb. Seated are Leon Cobb, Harry James Vissering, Bobby Collins, Jean Nowland, Becky Cobb, Patsy Cobb, Amy Cobb, and Windell Cobb.

Now this is what it is all about!! Eating that free ice cold melon!!!

Come prepared!!!! Now Mary Ann is PREPARED!! Note the table and chairs, the salt shaker in her right hand and a washcloth in the baggie in her lap. She even brought her own eating utensils!! And note the fellow in the chair on the right....either he has eaten a lot of melon or has one tucked up under his t-shirt. To protect the guilty, I won't tell you who he is!!

And we have live entertainment!!!! Note the big melons which were entered in the watermelon judging contest. I know the light colored one won a prize!!

There is an antique car show at the festival every year. I have seen some that I sure would like to have.

This is a photo of Margaret and Conor McCabe, grandchildren of the late John Paul & Bess Jones, who hosted the antique car show for many years. The photo was taken in 1998 during the festival.

An example of one of the floats in the parade.

Another photo showing the crowds that show up for the festival.

This photograph was probably taken during the early 1950's during Watermelon Festival, and fellers were being "arrested and incarcerated" in the chicken wire "jail". They had to actually serve their "term" or pay a fine to get out. From left to right in front are: R.J. "Rube" Welch, "Uncle" Nat Watts, and Claude Yeatman. The fellows in the background are unknown except for Pat Smith, who has his face partially hidden by a hand. Please note the old hotel in the background. It was located across the railroad tracks, just about directly across from where the auto parts store is now located on Main Street.

This is another photograph of the "jail", taken the same time as the photograph above. Left to right are Pat Smith, partially chopped off(he did his best to get photographed), "Uncle" Nat Watts, Reverend Ed Kennedy, an unknown feller, Kennard Fleming, another unknown feller under sombrero, and Rube Welch. Again, the old hotel is in the background.

This photo shows some of the watermelons that used to be grown in and around the Naples area. There were better soil conditions back then.

Another photo of the big watermelons that used to be grown in and around the Naples area. If you really believe these photos, I have a bridge in Brooklyn I will sell you.

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"Old Dogs, Children,
and Watermelon Wine"