WINSTON — The Winston-Dillard Melon Festival, in its 51st year, began with overcast skies Saturday morning before giving way to blue skies and sun on a day that began with a parade and carried over to Riverbend Park.

The parade got the activities started with dozens of entries led by the Winston Police and Winston-Dillard Fire Department, followed by floats from local churches and community groups, car clubs, motorcycles, cheer teams and many others.

The parade started at Abby’s Legendary Pizza parking lot by the cheetah statue in downtown Winston and finished about 3/4 of a mile to Riverbend Park with hundreds of spectators lining the route.

“I come up here every year, I just like it,” said Wes Maddux of Myrtle Creek. “They have a pretty good parade and the kids love it and it’s something to do on the weekend.”

“I kind of like watching the kids play and have a good time,” said his wife, Rosie Maddux. “I like the horses and the Wildlife Safari floats.”

The Wildlife Safari float, which included Khayam, the ambassador cheetah and his companion dog, Rhino, won the grand parade award as the top entry.

Tinika Berger, who brought her three young children with her, said this year’s parade was longer than it usually is.

“We loved it, the kids got candy,” she said. “My favorite part was the kids getting some melons.”

Melon Festival organizers were thrilled with the weather.

“This is good weather, you couldn’t ask for any better weather,” said Jay Milburn, the financial secretary for the festival. “This is an excellent crowd, this is what we like to see and expect.”

Melon Festival President Clay Caldwell said the festival is all about being a family event and they have a lot of kid-related activities.

“That’s what it’s all about really, it’s really cool to see happy faces,” Caldwell said.

As it warmed up in the afternoon, it was more comfortable for the frozen T-shirt contestants who had to take a shirt that had been wetted down and then frozen solid, and work on the shirt until they could put it on. The first person to get the frozen T-shirt won the contest.

The popular melon-eating contest drew crowds to watch contestants, devour through large slices of melon in record time.

Milburn said the local entertainment has been well received.

“We’ve changed things up a little bit, but it’s been a pretty good response on that.”

The festival continues Sunday morning with Church in the Park and a remote-controlled car race at 10:30 a.m. on the baseball field, followed by the Cruise for a Cause Car Show and mud volleyball at 11 a.m. If folks didn’t get enough melon on Saturday, another melon-eating contest will be held Sunday, along with a pickleball competition.

The event ends at 3:30 p.m. with a raffle which includes a prize of up to $3,000 travel/vacation voucher and other prizes.

The Dillard Winston Food Pantry is the beneficiary of the food donation program. There is no charge to get in, but donations of non-perishable foods are welcome.

“We do not charge admission but the food pantry takes care of our count at the gate, we allow them to take nonperishable food items,” Caldwell said. “It’s not limited to food either, if you want to give them some toilet paper, or paper towels or money, they’ll take it.”

All proceeds from the Melon Festival go to to local community events and activities in the Winston Dillard area.

Reporter Dan Bain can be reached at 541-957-4221 or e-mail at dbain@nrtoday.com.

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Dan Bain is the health reporter for The News-Review. He previously worked at KPIC and 541 Radio.

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