2015 Watermelon Festival News
Let the COUNTDOWN begin
Festival starts Saturday
HAMPTON COUNTY- The clock has started and the countdown has begun for the 73rd Annual Hampton County Watermelon Festival.
Changes in this year’s Festival seem to be the topic of conversation, so let’s talk about those changes.
First of all, the Mud Run will not be held at the Mud Pit behind the Hampton County Airport as it has been for the last 30+ years. Instead, the event has been moved to Yemassee to the Yemassee Mud Run pit operated by Collins Lane. Prices for entry are still the same with adults paying $10 to enter the event. For children 11 and under the cost is $5. Pit parking is available with only a few spots still remaining. If interested please contact Jimmie Polk to make your reservation for a pit spot at 803-943-8059. A large turnout from the entire region is expected so make sure you head to Yemassee for all the fun on Sunday, June 28th. Gates open at 10:00am with racing starting at 1:00pm. To get to the Yemassee Mud Run pit, turn next Harold’s Country Club on Hwy 17A in Yemassee onto Pocotaligo Rd. The pit is about a half-mile down on the left. Just follow the signs.
The other major change is with the Street Dance. Due to financial issues and lack of attendance, there will be no country band on the far end of Lee Avenue this year. Bands continue to get more and more expensive each year and the Street Dance is a FREE event and will continue to be so the committee asks that the public please understand the situation. Instead, the country band will be replaced by DJ Kenneth Boyer. Kenneth has performed for the “younger crowd” on Friday night for the past two years. This has proved to be very successful from a behavior standpoint and it has also brought in a more diverse crowd which is a top priority for the Festival Committee.
There are also some new events, additions and reminders for this year’s Festival:
Kids will have an opportunity to ride a mechanical bull and take advantage of a “game trailer” that will be set up in the rear of the Courthouse Square.
As part of this year’s Festival theme “Outdoor Life in Hampton County” there will be an exhibit of old hunting photographs. This event will take place at the Hampton County Museum from 2:00pm until 5:00pm on Thursday, June 25th. The event is free to the public.
Another Festival theme-based event is the South Carolina Wildlife Magazine booth that will be set up on the Courthouse Square all day on Friday the 26th and Saturday the 27th.
Also on Saturday the 27th there will be a book signing of the Jacob Rivers book. This will take place from noon until 3:00pm at the Hampton County Museum. Your only cost to attend this event is if you wish to purchase a copy of the book. Museum donations are also accepted if you would just like to visit the museum.
Probably the largest new edition to the Festival is CWA Pro Wrestling. This event will take place on Lee Avenue at 2:00pm following the Festival Parade. Three is no charge for this event. At the same time (2:00pm) there will be free watermelon slices available for all that would lie some, courtesy of the Watermelon Festival Committee.
The South Carolina Watermelon Queen will be in attendance at this year’s Festival as part of the Queen’s Court.
If you are interested or your business is interested in participating in the Festival Decorated Door and Business Showcase contest, please get your entrees in now. Contact Beth Chafin at Palmetto State Bank for info and entry forms.
Don’t forget to wrap up your homemade items for the Arts & Crafts Contest. Zoe McCrary(803-942-3035) and Catherine Priester(803-942-0346) head that committee. Arts & Crafts Contest entry day is Monday, June 22nd from 5:00pm until 7:00pm and is located at Studio Z at 14 Mulberry Street in Hampton.
Collectible Festival program books are now on sale. Book are $2 each and can be found in the following locations: In Varnville at the Varnville the Hampton Town Hall, Retail Therapy, Vincent Drugs, The Frock Shop, Alice Hazel CPA, The Purple Crab, Hampton Auto Center, Ulmer’s Feed & Seed, Palmetto State Bank, The Hampton County Guardian. In Estill at Palmetto State Bank, Wiggins Hardware, Bo Bops.
There are just a few other reminders for this year.
Please remember to use sunscreen and to stay hydrated will attending outdoor Festival events.
Make sure to always have at least one eye on small children at all times.
Please use trash receptacles when they are made available to you.
Please remember to show your fellow county residents as well as visitors to the Festival all the courtesies and respect that you would expect to receive from them.
HAVE A GREAT TIME AT THE 73RD HAMPTON CO. WATERMELON FESTIVAL!!!
Festival Mud Run Makes Move
To Yemassee For 2015
HAMPTON- Over the last 73 years, the Hampton County Watermelon Festival has evolved from a weekend long event to the current nine-day extravaganza that puts Hampton County on the map. The biggest reason for the length in time is mainly because of the addition of so many events over the past 7+ decades. This year’s Festival is no different with several changes in schedule of events for 2015.
Let’s start out first with the bad news. For the second straight year, due to a lack of a suitable location, there will be no Carnival. The Festival Committee has worked hard to find a location that would be close enough to all the events occurring downtown, but has had no success. Hopefully this is an issue that can be agreed upon by all involved in the near future. The other major change for 2015 will be re-location of the Mud Run from Hampton to Yemassee. I’ll talk about that in a few……….
For nearly 40 years the Festival Mud Run has been held at the “clay pits” adjacent to the County Airport. This year Hampton County Council decided in a 3-2 vote not to allow this event to be held there this year and probably not in the future. The Festival Committee, led by Chairman Jimmie Polk, has agreed to work with Yemassee’s Collins Lane to hold the 2015 Mud Run at the Yemassee Mud Run on Pocotaligo Rd. in Yemassee. Mr. Lane has been in the business of hosting Mud Runs for years and the Festival Committee feels sure that this partnership will be a great and lasting one.
The details for the 2015 Watermelon Festival Mud Run are as follows:
The 2015 Mud Run will be held at the Yemassee Mud Run located at 27890 Pocotaligo Rd. Yemassee.
The date for the event is Sunday, June 28th.
Gates will open at 10:00am with racing beginning at 1:00pm.
Rail parking can be reserved beginning June 1st for $20 per spot.
Reserve rail parking should be made by email to:
Or by visiting Polk’s Muffler & Brake Shop at the corner of 1st St and Elm St. in Hampton.
Do not contact Yemassee Mud Run or Collins Lane for reserving rail seating!!!
Spectators are welcome to bring their own coolers and drinks. Food is available for purchase but tailgating is also allowed. Make sure you get a Mud Run T-shirt before you leave. We guarantee you and the whole family will have a blast!
Admission is $10 for adults and $5 for children 11 years and younger.
Committee Names 2015
HAMPTON- The applications have been turned in and the committee has made their decision on this year’s Miss Hampton County Watermelon Festival and Teen Miss. The 2015 Miss Hampton County Watermelon Festival is Hannah Michelle Stanley with Emily Caroline Wilson being named 2015 Teen Miss Hampton County Watermelon Festival.
Hannah, a Hampton resident and 18 year old Wade Hampton senior, is very involved in school and community organizations and events that include the Wade Hampton Beta and Interact Clubs. During her high school career, Hannah also performed as a cheerleader and a member of both the cross country and varsity soccer teams.
Academically, Hannah has won the Academic Excellence Award at Wade Hampton each year of her high school career. She has also been named a Columbia College Scholar and University of South Carolina-Aiken Scholar. Hannah plans to attend USC-Columbia where she wants to earn a bachelor’s degree in Criminology and Psychology before continuing on to a master’s degree before becoming a Clinical Psychologist. Hannah hopes to someday open her own mental health facility to “help others who may not be able to help themselves.”
Hannah holds three other crowns as well. In 2013 she was named Sophomore Class Queen, Prom Princess (11th grade), and 2015 Wade Hampton Homecoming Queen. Hannah is the daughter of Michael and Michelle Stanley.
Emily is a 17-year old Wade Hampton High School junior who lives near Lake Warren State Park.
Emily is also very active at Wade Hampton and in the community. As a junior, academically Emily has been named a Palmetto Girls State Delegate, Class Vice-President and Beta Club Secretary. In 2013 and 2014 Emily received the Academic Excellence Award and was a Sophomore Advisor (10the grade). Athletically, Emily has performed as All Region soccer, volleyball and cross country participant and Lower State track & field qualifier.
In the community, Emily has served well, too. She has served as a Hampton County Watermelon Festival “Melon Bell”, has helped with community food and blood drives, Relay for Life, reading books to Brunson Elementary students and the list goes on. Emily also participates regularly at her church.
Emily also makes “Bangle Bracelets” and sells them, giving 10% of her income to local missions.
The new Teen Miss has plans for after high school hoping to attend Clemson University where she wants to major in Business Management. She wants to become an entrepreneur involved in community development.”I have seen the opportunities and challenges of living in a rural community. I would like to play a role in highlighting the positive aspects of the Lowcountry.”
Emily is the daughter of Nathan and Kay Wilson.
Festival Committee Makes
Street Dance Changes
Posted 3.17.15 Story by Chris Haulsee
Hampton- The Hampton County Watermelon Festival Committee held their monthly meeting last Thursday night to discuss this year’s Festival while finalizing some of the music plans in store for the 73rd celebration.
Due to lack of turnout on the “Country Music” end of Lee Avenue, the Festival Committee has decided to end the decades-long tradition of hosting a Country-Western live band on that end of the street. The 2015 Street Dance will feature the usual “Beach Music-Top 40” band on the “Courthouse” end of the street and will move the DJ from its current location, off of Lee Avenue to the old location of the country band.
“Last year the turnout was not very large for the country band,” said Festival Chairman Jimmie Polk. “At the same time, we have seen a huge increase in attendance for the DJ. The kids love it and we haven’t had any real problems since the idea of having a DJ for the younger crowd came to be two years ago.” Festival Webmaster Chris Haulsee added, “The Committee is looking for ways to trim costs as bands become more and more expensive. Sometimes you have to go where the crowd is and what you are getting your best response from. The DJ at the Street Dance has started to draw a much larger crowd than the country band and the country band costs 3-4 times as much as the DJ, plus our DJ is a local guy. We know that some folks will miss the country band but we still have a beach/top-40 band that will pick up many of those country fans.”
The Committee wants to remind everyone that they can still come out and dance to a wonderful band and DJ. Please remember that the costs of live bands continue to skyrocket while the Watermelon Festival still provides a Street Dance that is free of charge to anyone attending while still providing quality entertainment.
Speaking of the Street Dance, William Koger has announced that he will try to book the East Coast Party Band for 2015. ECPB has performed at the Festival in the past and has always been well received. Koger hopes to book them within the next few weeks.
Committee member Robert Brown announced this past week that the band for this year’s Bluegrass Concert, held at Open Arms Fellowship Church each year, will feature some homegrown talent with the band “Graham’s Turnout.” GT has performed at the gazebo on Saturdays during the Festival as well as headlining the Festival’s Opening Ceremonies and Family Fun Day at Lake Warren State Park.
In other Festival news, there is still not much headway in bringing back the Carnival that took last year off due to a lack of location that was suitable. All other committees reported that their events were on track and were running smoothly.
Festival Chairman Polk announced that the Committee was in need of new blood and that several positions on the Committee would need to be replaced next year, his being one of them. Other key positions that will need to be filled by the end of this year include: Arts & Crafts Chairman, currently held by Okey Byrd; Mud Runs Chairman, currently held by Jimmie Polk; Taste of Hampton County Chairman, currently held by Ann Long; and Festival Chairman, currently held by Jimmie Polk. Not only do these positions need to be filled, there are also several other committees that need some volunteer help. Festival meetings are held the first Thursday in the month.
In other Festival news, advertising space for this year’s Festival Souvenir Book is available. If you would like to place your regular ad or if you are a new business that would like to support the Festival, please contact Lettie Ginn at 803-625-4408. If any businesses, church or civic groups would like to rent a float for this year’s Festival, please contact Terrell Cleland at 942-3521.
If anyone would like to sell Arts & Crafts this year and you need space, Arts & Crafts applications are now online at hcmelonfest.org. Go to the website and click on the “applications” tab, print the application, fill it out and mail it in. Time is running out on applying!
The Hampton County Watermelon Festival Committee will have its next meeting on Thursday, April, 2nd at 7:00pm. Meetings are held at the Hampton United Methodist Church Fellowship Hall located just behind the church on Mulberry Street in Hampton. Everyone is welcome to attend!
Graham's Turnout to perform
at Bluegrass Concert
Posted 3.12.15 Story by Chris Haulsee
This year the Hampton County Watermelon Festival has decided to go with a local flavor for their annual Bluegrass Concert. In the past the free concert has featured bands from all over South Carolina and the Southeast while always having a big crowd.
The band of choice for the 2015 Festival is a local Bluegrass group Graham’s Turnout. Graham’s Turnout has been around for a few years and have previously appeared at the Watermelon Festival’s “Family Fun Day” held each year at Lake Warren State Park as part of the Festival’s “Opening Ceremonies.”
The members of the band include: Mike Meyer- mandolin, harmonica & vocals; Lee Hutto-rhythm guitar, mandolin & vocals; Mac Millen-bass guitar, guitar, percussion & vocals; Steve Bennett-vocals, banjo, dobro & guitar.
This year’s concert will again be held at Open Arms Fellowship Church, located on Highway 601 North as you head out of Hampton. The concert is free to the public.
Festival Committee sets 2015 theme;
names Parade Grand Marshal
Posted 2.26.15 Story by Michael DeWitt, Jr.
Hampton County, with its plentiful pineland acreage, teeming wetlands, 440-acre Lake Warren State Park and a trio of vast, state-managed Wildlife Management Areas, has selected the theme for its 2015 Watermelon Festival: "The Outdoor Life in Hampton County." The 73rd edition of this fine South Carolina festival tradition is set for June 20-28, 2015, and is beckoning to all lovers of wild, open-air spaces and Southern small town charm.
Break the stifling monotony of those long June days by trekking to quaint Hampton County, nestled on the back porch of the South Carolina Lowcountry between the rivers Salkehatchie and Savannah, where you can enjoy an adorable "kiddie" parade, the Taste of Hampton County smorgasbord, a fishing contest, a pet show, the Battle of the Towns, a mud run, a free street dance and what just may be the longest parade in the Palmetto State - covering 2.4 miles and two towns! And the Grand Marshal of this year's parade - which is scheduled to be televised on Savannah's WTOC Channel 11 - is well known in outdoor circles: Hampton County native Sidney Jones, a retired S.C. Department of Natural Resources law enforcement officer who during his career was beloved by the law abiding, feared by the lawless and respected by all.
From the hardcore hunter and freshwater enthusiast to the gentle birdwatcher and hiker, there is something for every nature lover to sample here in this serene corner of the coastal region. While you're in town for the festival you can enjoy hiking, fishing or nature watching at local blackwater rivers, scenic Lake Warren, and top-notch professionally guided hunting plantations; or venture deeper into the wild to hunt and fish public lands at Webb, Palachucola and Hamilton Ridge WMAs in Garnett.
Come and stay all week. We've got plenty of room, lots of fresh air and a few thousand pounds of ice-cold watermelon! Founded in 1939 and organized entirely by volunteers since, the Watermelon Festival is online at www.hcmelonfest.org.
- Courtesy of Michael DeWitt, Jr., Hampton County Watermelon Festival Committee volunteer and South Carolina Wildlife contributor