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Virginia Cantaloupe Festival promises new twist Friday

The Virginia Cantaloupe Festival has come a long way over the past 31 years, Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Nancy Pool said on the eve of the 32nd annual festival as she and her staff work to make this year’s event the best yet.

The goal this year is to raise $25,000, and Pool hopes to reach the cut off limit with 2,000 people attending.

According to Pool, Friday festivalgoers can expect “a good time, good food, good friends, and good fellowship” as well as some major changes. 

“We have some new ideas and some new people on our committee, and we’re excited about it. We have fun planning a pleasant event,” Pool said.

 This year the festival hours will be from 5 p.m. to 11 p.m. unlike previous festivals that ran from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. 

Pool said the new hours will be more convenient for the festivalgoers because most people don’t get off work until five and that is also when many start to show up to the festival, Pool noted.

Another change festivalgoers can look forward to this Friday is that everything will now take place in the midway area of the fairgrounds. This year the grand stand will not be used, and the stage will be in a new location, Pool said.

 She confirmed that one gate rather than two gates will be used this year so there will be a different traffic pattern and entrance. Signage will help direct the traffic, Pool said.

A new beverage distributor is being used this year offering a different variety of beverages.

This year’s menu has a bit of a new twist this year as well consisting of fresh corn grown by Reese’s Farms, home cooked potato chips, barbecue, black berries and blue berries from Coles Farm, grapes, sliced tomatoes, vanilla ice cream, watermelon, and of course, Halifax County’s famous cantaloupe grown locally by Reese’s Farm and Steve and Tommy Hudson.

 Festivalgoers can get their tastebuds ready for the new addition of chicken wings to this year’s cantaloupe festival menu. 

Pool reminded all hungry festivalgoers that food will be served from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m., but the fruit will be available a little longer.  

Those wishing to attend the festival but who don’t feel like driving to the fairgrounds can take the shuttle bus provided at select locations including Walmart, both farmers markets and the World of Sports.

Another change giving character to this year’s event will be the sand provided by Joe Bailey of Bailey Masonry, LLC that will lend touch of beach atmosphere for the beach bands set to rock the stage.

Pizzazz band and the ever so popular Legends of Beach from North Carolina will entertain the large crowd of festivalgoers at this year’s festival.

Festivalgoers also will be able to enter a drawing to win a Budweiser Party Cruise with registration located inside a tent outside the gate.

After putting on this show for the past 31 years, Pool said it’s a constant challenge to come up with new ideas year after year.

They get new ideas by seeking feedback to find out what people want, what they liked or didn’t like, and what can be improved for the next year.

According to Pool, she has been to every festival and hasn’t missed a minute of any of them.

For her the most memorable festival dates back to 1982 in Turbeville before they moved to the fairgrounds, and it rained causing many vehicles to get stuck in the mud.   

According to Pool, tow trucks and tractors were used to pull the people out.  Pool said that was indeed the most memorable festival to date.

Pool also noted some of the changes over the years.

“We began in a field in Turbeville that had limited water supply and limited electricity and no restroom facilities. We have moved to a location that has adequate water sources, lights and where parking and is convenient to the public. That has been our biggest change over the years,” Pool said.

 Pool noted the biggest change to the menu over the years involves how the meat is prepared.

In past years the beef was slow cooked in a pit on site, but festival organizers are no longer able to do that because of the facilities at the new location, Pool said. 

Now barbeque is catered for the event.  

Pool said many flock to the festival year after year because it serves as a homecoming of sorts.

“It’s an environment for people to meet other friends and acquaintances and is also a great value,” Pool said.

 She said the reason the statewide event is held in Halifax County is because that’s where the premiere cantaloupe is grown and now the nectar of the Gods has gained recognition “from all over.”

There are no immediate plans for future festivals just yet, but rest assured after this year’s festival the Pool and committee plans to will meet to evaluate any changes needed and what can be done to keep improving the festival that annually brings folks from all over the state to Halifax County.

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