Cantaloupe Festival is Saturday in Ridgeway

Jul. 18, 2013 @ 07:10 PM

RIDGEWAY — In days past, travelers on the East Coast would leave the interstate and stop here for some of the best-tasting cantaloupes found anywhere.

The melons still taste great, but growers began to diminish. Then came an idea — the annual Ridgeway Cantaloupe Festival.

“There’s a sense of pride in Ridgeway,” said Ernie Fleming, one of the organizers. “And we were about to lose our cantaloupe growers.”

Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., the festival will welcome visitors by the thousands. The area by and in back of the Ridgeway Volunteer Fire Department will be filled with vendor tents, foods and two stages offering live music.

“We’ve had 3,000 to 5,000, but we haven’t really sat down and taken time and energy to figure out exactly,” Fleming said. “We usually have peaks, one in the morning, another at lunch, and then another in the afternoon.”

And they’ll come for the Brunswick stew being sold, as well as sweet tasting cantaloupes from just down the road.

The Ridgeway Historical Society and the fire department jointly put on the festival. Freida Harlow said the society will sell stew by the bowls inside with a dessert and drink.

Watermelons will also be on sale. The Tri-County’s most recognized festival regular, BoHo the Clown, will be doing magic shows and have in tow plenty of help for bouncy houses, games and other kid-friendly attractions.

Crafts and other foods will also be available.

The musical entertainment will include acts from Ridgeway, Warrenton, Henderson, Kittrell, Oxford and the Virginia communities of Chase City, Boykins and Gasburg.

“There’s good teamwork down there,” Harlow said. “That’s the reason it’s been a success for the years we’ve been putting it on. Everybody works together. And we have a good time.”

Harlow said the event has come a long way.

“It started out, I thought I would love to have a cantaloupe festival, and I thought it would be a little thing,” Harlow said. “Billy Jarrell helped found the historical society, got all the letters out to those he thought would like to have a Ridgeway Historical Society.

“Most of those living here had ancestors who settled here in the late 1800s. He said you’re going to have to have help.”

And the help poured in.

“We had a lot of people that were interested,” Harlow said. “Lucy Holtzmann had a lot of history and memorabilia that she had collected. After we got the historical society going, we decided to get the cantaloupe festival going.

“We couldn’t do it without the fire department.”

The historical society is preserving the history of the community. And it’s a history that renews goodness from the earth every July.

“They planted cantaloupes back in the 1930s, and found they would grow so good and tasted so good,” Harlow said. “That’s what Ridgeway was famous for, for years. People would come through from New York to Florida and stop and buy them.”

And Saturday, perhaps not from as far, the people will come back again.

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The musical attractions for the Cantaloupe Festival include:

The Dixie Jubilee

Wade Schuster

Donnie Gilliam Band

Ridgeway Men’s Choir

Hi Grass Bluegrass Band

Backyard Bluegrass Band

Dreamgirl Dancers

Kaine Riggan

Jimmy Ricks

John White