WINSTON — The 51st Winston-Dillard Melon Festival opens a three-day run Friday at Riverbend Park in Winston.

This year’s festival will have some new events with many of the old favorites, including lots of melons to eat.

Melon Festival President Clay Caldwell said the board wanted to get more local people involved in the activities this year so they made a few changes to some of the events.

“We don’t have as much music as we’ve had in the past, we’re going to try an open mic session on Saturday and try to get some involvement from the spectators, and instead of a band on Friday night, we’re doing a movie this year, it’s the new Aladdin movie that’s just being released,” Caldwell said. “But it’s good entertainment and it’s going to be good for all groups.”

Saturday events open with the annual Melon Festival Parade which will run from Abby’s Pizza by the cheetah statue, down to Thompson Street and into the park with registration beginning at 9:30 a.m. The parade, which Caldwell said has increased in size in the last few years, starts at 11 a.m.

“We’ve got our classic cars and our Corvette club and we’ve got organizations throughout the community that are getting a little more involved,” Caldwell said.

Melon eating contests go on throughout the weekend for kids and adults and there will be plenty of food available all weekend long.

The DC Cheer performance will be at 12:30 p.m. Saturday, the popular frozen T-shirt contest happens at 2:15 p.m. and the magic show kicks off at 4 p.m. that day.

Another entertaining event this year is the pickleball competition that will be held at 1 p.m. each day on the basketball courts at the park.

Caldwell said they are always looking for volunteers, but this year, there was a huge number of people and that’s been a big boost for the festival committee.

“We always need more, but the community is actually coming together right now and starting to help out better than they used to and we have a couple of young new volunteers that are a breath of fresh air, but we can always use more young ones.”

The festival opens noon on Friday for opening introductions and ends with the Aladdin movie. On Saturday, the parade starts the events at 11 a.m., and fireworks will finish the day at dusk. On Sunday, the day starts with car show registration at 9 a.m. and church in the park at 10:30 a.m. and there will be mud volleyball at 11 a.m.

Events run until 3:30 p.m. Sunday when a $3,000 travel/vacation voucher and several other prizes will be raffled off.

Caldwell said the festival is a family-oriented, community event that the whole family can enjoy.

“There’s something for everyone of all ages,” Caldwell said. “We have a little bit of fun for everybody.”

There is no admission charge but nonperishable food donations will be accepted at the festival information booth for the Dillard-Winston Food Bank.

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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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