By: Brandon Mangan
For nearly one hundred years, the first week of August has meant the same thing in De Leon, Texas.
For one, it means that thousands of pounds of watermelons are about to be devoured. Peaches too. There’s going to be a parade. Beauty pageants. Judging and auctioning of delectable desserts. Live music and dancing. A fairground full of vendors, a carnival boasting whirling rides and kaleidoscopic lights. Tractors spool and spin their tires, pulling giant sleds as their exhausts erupt with smoke. Sounds and scenes of joy in small town Texas. This bevy of attractions are part of an event that’s come to be called the De Leon Peach and Melon Festival, one of the oldest festivals in Texas, and it’s taking place in August. I don’t think you’ll want to miss it.
The festival has a storied history, originally taking place under the name of the “Free Fall Fair” in 1914. A few years later the town began growing watermelons commercially, only to realize that the melons the town grew were white hearted and of little value on the market. A committee was formed and a meeting was held. The town sent local resident L.B. Patterson to Weatherford to find good seed and to learn how to make it prosper. While there Mr. Patterson was invited to and later attended a social gathering centered on the slicing of copious amounts of melons. Mr. Patterson must have enjoyed himself. He was struck by it.
The experience brought him to send not one, not two, but three letters to the De Leon Free Press Editor about having a carving that year in De Leon. So, in 1922 the town had a watermelon slicing of grand proportion. Local melon growers made a deal with the City of De Leon. They’d provide the fruit if the City would get the word out about it and clean up after the event.
The rest is history.
In 1923 there were 1,000 melons set to be consumed and the town hasn’t looked back.
This year promises to build upon the past and put on the biggest festival yet. Featured food vendors this year will offer everything from brisket, donuts, to kabobs, fair classics like turkey legs and sausage on a stick. There will also be boutiques and various merchants on the grounds each night. A parade that goes the entire length of main street will start at 9am on the 6th.
If you are interested in finding out more, you can contact the festival headquarters, located at 5401 Hwy 6, De Leon, TX 76444 and see the whole schedule of events online at http://www.peachandmelonfestival.net/. The festival dates for this year are Aug 3rd-6th with Golden Saturday being on the 6th. Don’t forget to visit the De Leon Historical Museum and The Chaos Trading Company in the downtown area during Golden Saturday! There will be a farmers market behind The Chaos Trading Company (124 W Gonzales) where vendors will be offering all sorts of hand made goodies as well as an animal adoptathon inside the building. We hope to see you there!