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Planning proceeds for 40th Watermelon Festival

Planning a large event always comes with stresses, but this year – planning an event during a pandemic – brings a different type of stress.

“I am asked about the Watermelon Festival all the time,” said Franklin County Chamber of Commerce Director Cassie Medley. “My response is ‘We are planning and proceeding with caution.'”

The 40th Annual Franklin County Watermelon Festival is scheduled for Aug. 20-21; like with most other large events, many boxes have to be checked to make the event a reality.

“Planning large events with so many unknowns can be difficult, but you take it one day at a time,” Medley said.

With regulations and precautions changing all of the time, it is difficult to know what August will look like.

Many large events were cancelled last year because of COVID-19 – the Watermelon Festival among them.

Medley said when the festival was canceled in 2020, preparation immediately began for this year’s festival.

“The motivating factor for planning this year despite the unknowns is knowing there are always unknowns,” Medley said. “For any event to be successful, you continue to plan and prepare.”

Right now Medley said planning for the Watermelon Festival includes securing entertainment and preparing vendor applications and sponsor packets.

Medley said she and Chamber board members will be looking at the operation and outcome of other large events that precede the Watermelon Festival as inspiration.

Several large regional festivals happen in the summer, such as the Helen Keller Festival and W.C. Handy Festival in Florence. Medley said watching these events will give her an idea what regulations will be needed for a successful large-scale community event this year.

Medley said although the Watermelon Festival still has a long way to go to become a reality, it gives her hope that other large events were able to happen this past year despite the pandemic, such as Red Bay Founders Festival.

Medley said this year, like all years, the ideal scenario is for the Festival to draw a large crowd to Russellville to enjoy a day of nice weather and community fun.

“The Chamber will continue to be optimistic and say, ‘See you the third weekend in August for the 40th Annual Franklin County Watermelon Festival,'” Medley added.

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