Last week Farmerville hosted the fifty second Farmerville Watermelon Festival. It was rewarding to go down town and see what the city and the JCs had accomplished and it was rewarding to know that the tradition will continue. As I walked through the old Peoples Department Store and admired the renovation I thought back to another time when the spirit of the town was at its’ best.
In 1967 Farmerville was going to celebrate its’ 125th Anniversary. The celebration was scheduled for March so the weather was mild and clear. Perfect weather for a grand celebration and grand it was. A festival of this magnitude doesn’t just happen. It takes a lot of planning, a lot of individual dedication and a large amount of community spirit. All was present in Farmerville as the carnival atmosphere began to build.
The steering committee was a cross section of Farmerville residents. Larry Armstrong was the chair and Mrs. Fred Eldridge was the co-chair. Committee members were Stein Baughman Sr., Mrs. Jimmy Wade, Zeke Tettleton and Mrs. Frank Yelton. Fifteen individual activities made up the celebration and each activity had its individual committee with each headed by a who’s who of local residents.
The four day event kicked off on March 15th with a performance by the Centenary Choir in the Farmerville Gymnasium. Mrs. Mary Louise Read chaired the inaugural event as the choir performed fifteen different melodies. Price to attend was $1.00 for adults and $.50 for students.
Earlier that day the Forest Products Exhibit opened to the public. Internal Paper sponsored the exhibit on Water Street and this was chaired by local timber contractor, Max Gilmore. Next to the Forest Product Exhibit was the Flower Show hosted by the Farmerville Garden Club and chaired by Mrs. N.B. James. There was no admission charged.
On March 16th First Federal Savings and Loan, located at 301 North Main Street became the anniversaries museum. Mrs. Frank Yelton chaired the museum and admission for this was free. The 16th also saw the opening of the three day run of the festival’s art show. Mrs. James Fenton oversaw this event and once again there was no admission.
Later that day witnessed the 125th Anniversary Parade chaired by Richard Neely. People lined the streets as high school marching bands with high stepping majorettes and floats snaked their way through the streets of Farmerville.
Farmerville also used commercial expansions in the area to help with the celebration. The 16th saw the dedication of the Preaus – Auger Chip Mill located on the old CCC Camp Road. Fred Preaus, part owner of the new mill, chaired the dedication committee. On the 18th there was an air show at the Farmerville Air Port. A new addition to the community, the airport would serve as the gathering point as spectators watched sky divers from the Ark-La-Tex Exhibition Team perform their free fall maneuvers. Gerald Farrar was the head of this committee. Admission was charged and entry to the airport was $.50. That night the Order of the Eastern Star hosted a banquet and was chaired by Mrs. C.R. Rainwater. Admission was $5.00.
Friday March 17th saw students of Farmerville High School wear period clothing of a bygone time. Girls in hooped skirts and even one male wearing a confederate uniform were caught in a picture that was archived in the Pine Knot. That night the Miss Farmerville Pageant was held. This was far more than a pageant as the Farmerville High School Stage Band performed while individuals sang and the Miss Watermelon and Miss Peach queens were present. Ray Masling was the master of ceremonies and the pageant was chaired by Jack Hill, founder of Hill Oil. The Variety Show portion of the pageant was chaired by Roy Forester.
The culmination of the anniversary was the Old South Ball, held in the Farmerville Gymnasium. This was sponsored by the Farmerville Jaycees. People would dance until midnight to the music of Phares Corder and his orchestra while two local bands, the Fontiques and the Grim Reapers provided a break for the Corder orchestra.
The event was a magnificent success and shows the spirit of small town America. There was a 150th Anniversary celebration but I missed that one while overseas. If there is a 175th Anniversary I will definitely be there and plan to be around for the 200th anniversary.


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