By: Tammy Curtis, Managing Editor
They couldn’t have picked a better weekend to make their 2023 debut. With sweltering100 plus degree temperatures, the craving for an ice cold slice of Cave City Watermelon was at its all time high. In they came, but in small quantities on June 30 from Johnson Brothers and then a larger load on July 1 from Brian Carter Farms followed by three huge loads from Johnson Brothers later Saturday. The sweet, sought after goodness of the first of the crop didn’t last long. Carter said it was like Christmas as customers bought every last one of his first offering. But it won’t be long and the staple of summer will bein abundance up and down the highway at Cave City. This year the melons are a few days ahead of last years July 9 debut. They are typically ready be-tween the last week of June and first to second week of July, de-pending on the spring weather. This year’s rainy spring with unseasonably cool temperatures made it difficult to get the plants into the ground at the customary planting time. Had they been planted during the rainy spell, it is probable the plants would have drowned out or rotted in the ground. The streets of Cave City will soon look like a parade is coming to town. When the melons began to arrive, heaped onto pickup trucks, carloads of eager watermelon fans follow shortly behind, eagerly filling their vehicles with the bounty of summer. The celebratory cutting of melons for customers to sample is a common sight along the high-way that runs through the city. As growers begin the early morning ritual of cutting their melons from the vines, each one must be weighed in, priced and stamped with Cave City Water-melon Grower stickers before the customers can purchase them. The stickers separate registered growers from those in other towns who sometimes try to sell their melons under the famous Cave City growers trade-mark. The Cave City Watermelon Grower stickers with the grower’s name assure that it is a genuine Cave City melon. The fact is growers begin working to bring the melons to the area months before the plants even go into the greenhouses and eventually, the earth where they grow. The Johnson’s stand was swarmed as soon as Julie Johnson post-ed a video of the trucks arriving. With limited red melons, the new Orange Crush variety of yellow melons proved to disappear just as quickly. The samples made the decision difficult, while many watermelon lovers who have longed for the sweet fruit since winter bought some of each variety. Other growers will be shortly behind with their watermelons. Most Cave City growers already have cantaloupes, another melon that grows great in the area’s sandy soil. Several of the farmers also offer other produce for sale along with the melons, including tomatoes, cucumbers, squash, okra and even cabbage. The season will reach a high at the end of the month when the 43rdAnnual Cave City Watermelon Festival will take place at the City Park on July 27-29.With what promises to be a larger than ever crowd with gospel and local talent and headliners the Kentucky Headhunters and Neal McCoy taking the stage on Friday and Saturday nights at the event. Cave City melons and cantaloupes are judged best by many because they grow well in the sandy soil that is prevalent in the area. The city’s melons became famous as far back as 1938, when the first growers association was organized. The community has been celebrating its famous melons through the Cave City Water-melon Festival, which has been held every year in August since1980 when Charles and Anita Landers began the tradition that continues to grow. In 2015 the Landers “retired”, and anew committee of volunteers have since taken the festival to even greater successes, with expanded entertainment lineups, activities for the entire family, and record-set-ting crowds; from the beginning, the festival has always been about celebrating the town and its rich history of producing the world’s best watermelons. All events at the festival are free except food, the wet zone and a few fundraising games. So bring a lawn chair every night and come out and enjoy the fruits of the local farmer’s labor and a free watermelon feast at 4 p.m. on Saturday.