One long-standing 4th of July tradition in Mobile County is the Grand Bay Watermelon Festival. The annual event, the first of which was held June 29, 1949 at Mobile County High School in Grand Bay, will be held this year on Saturday, July 4, 2015 at Festival Park, Highway 90, Grand Bay.
Festival chair Patty Tripp said that a history of the Watermelon Festival shows that the sponsoring organization in 1949 was the Grand Bay Chamber of Commerce with support from area farmers. It was a great success and was reigned over by Queen Mary Margaret Kinnan. Ladies-in-Waiting were Aurelia Castlen and Kathleen Saucier.
Tripp said that a special edition of the Gulf Coast Farmer, published by the Mobile County Farm Bureau, was dedicated to the Grand Bay Festival. Some interesting stories in that issue provided amusing data about Grand Bay in 1949. For example, the town was about to get full phone service, a project that was started in 1943. Construction had started on the Union Church to Grand Bay Road (now called Grand Bay-Wilmer Rd.) and the Grand Bay-Bayou la Batre Road was in the planning stages. The Chamber of Commerce was making plans to build a community swimming pool; unfortunately it was never built. Mention was also made of farm-oriented clubs and organizations, Tripp said.
The Watermelon Festival continued for many years, then died out. In 1974 the Grand Bay Jaycees revived the annual tradition and the Grand Bay Independent Order of Odd Fellows Lodge #73 continues it today. "We celebrate the 2015 Grand Bay Watermelon Festival as the 42nd Annual since being revived and, like the one in 1949, pay homage to the farmers in Grand Bay, as well as the delicious watermelon," Tripp said.
The Queens are still a part of the Festival, and this year's royal members are as follows
The 16-18 year old Queen, who is also the overall Grand Bay Watermelon Festival Queen, is Amanda McQurter; the 13-15 year old Queen is Kayleigh-Faye Tomlin;, 10-12,Kara Shields; 7-9, Abigail Akridge and 4-6 year old Queen is Emma Lou Rogers.
The Grand Bay Watermelon Festival this year offers visitors plenty of sliced, ice-cold watermelon to eat on site. There'll be a Children's Area, arts and crafts booths, food vendors, family entertainment and a Car Show. For information, see www.grandbaywatermelonfestival.org or call Monnie Tripp, 251-865-3456.