Why is it always so hot for the Pageland Watermelon Festival? And how did Pageland get to be the Watermelon Capital of the World?
According to the website for the Pageland Chamber of Commerce, the organization that sponsors the event, “It has to be in the hottest part of the year, because that’s when the farmers are bringing the melons, ripe for the picking, out of the fields.”
The annual event, which began in 1951, was celebrated this past weekend with traditional watermelon eatin’ and seed spittin’ contests, beauty queens, a carnival and parade, live music, vendors, food and more.
The festival has been popular since it’s inception. “The festival grew fast, as the second annual event laid host to 15,000 parade watchers,” said chamber officials. By 1955, an estimated crowd of 40,000 flocked to Pageland to celebrate the prolific watermelon.
Today’s crowds are not quite that big, but there’s just as much watermelon as ever. Promoters of the event like to say, “Come for the watermelon, stay for the fun.”
Historians believe the watermelon has been celebrated a lot longer than Pageland has been dubbed the Watermelon Capital of the World. According to Watermelonpoints.com, “Several watermelon seeds were found in the tomb of Pharaoh Tutankhamen, as well as in other sites of the 12th Egyptian Dynasty.”
Wonder how far “King Tut” could spit a watermelon seed?
The same website says, “It appears this fruit was largely unknown in other Mediterranean cultures of the time, but they were certainly cultivated in Asia (China in particular) by the end of the 9th century A.D. The fruit was introduced to Europe by the Moor invasion in the 13th century, and the word ‘watermelon’ was present in English dictionaries in 1615, according to the Dictionary of American Food and Drink by J. Mariani.”
Watermelons were introduced to the American continents in the 1500s.
So how did Pageland come to be the Watermelon Capital of the World?
Consider the fact that watermelons grow best is sandy, loose soil. They enjoy a long growing season, and can endure hot, dry summers. Now, take a drive through the countryside in the western part of Chesterfield County and decide for yourself how a culture could learn to love and celebrate something so cool and refreshing on a hot summer day.
For more information about Pageland, or the annual Watermelon Festival, visit the Pageland Chamber of Commerce on Facebook.
— Staff Writer Karen Kissiah can be reached by calling 843-537-5261, or by email at email@example.com.