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Watermelon celebrated at 31 Produce

By CHUCK BALLARO - | May 12, 2021

from left, Lacy Cummins, Susan Chastain, Kelsey Prevatt, and Lauren Cummins, at NASCAR driver Ross Chastain’s booth at the 31 Produce Watermelon Day event Saturday. CHUCK BALLARO

news@breezenewspapers.com

31 Produce celebrated its inaugural Watermelon Day Saturday, a homage to the start of the watermelon season in Southwest Florida and the colorful fruits, seed and seedless.

Attendees could even vote which one they liked best.

Paige Greenwell, manager at 31 Produce, said it was to celebrate local businesses and farmers, many of whom sell watermelons, in what they hope will become an annual event.

“I had the idea before the Watermelon Association contacted me. I talked to my husband to tell me what he thought and said it would be a good idea,” Greenwell said. “We know a lot of families that sell watermelons.”

Among them is Susan Chastain, whose son, Ross, races on the NASCAR circuit and who created the Melon Man brand.

As 31 Produce is their local produce stand and they are eighth-generation watermelon farmers, it was natural for them to come here.

“We did really well this year. We’re knee deep in watermelon season and we’re getting them out as fast as they can ship them off,” Chastain said. “We’ve had a steady stream of traffic and we’re promoting watermelon and racing.”

There were a lot of other activities including watermelon Bingo, with watermelon seeds being used as markers, planting your own watermelon, coloring a watermelon, live music with Steven Amato & The Down Home Dukes, dozens of vendors and live remotes from 104.5FM The Twang.

Also there was Bethany Barfield, the Florida Watermelon Queen, who came to promote the melon after winning the title at the Florida Watermelon Convention.

“All I have to do is be a watermelon expert. It’s an honor to be able to do this and travel around Florida and the United States to promote Florida-grown watermelon,” said Barfield, whose crown does not allow her to compete for Miss Florida (unlike Miss Florida Citrus Michaela McLean who in 2019 became Miss Florida). “Being able to come down and see all the farmers is really special.”

The Desoto Watermelon Queen Aubree Patton, was also there.

She became queen just two weeks ago and said the farms in her region have done quite well.

“They’re all busy. We’re selling them to Publix, the farmers work with different brokers and different stores and will be really busy,” Patton said. “The local farmers are doing well and I hope they keep it up.”

People came at a steady clip. Laura Reed of Fort Myers came with her friend and their kids and liked that they had somewhere to go.

“It’s great. The kids love it, it’s nice to be outdoors, around the animals. It’s pretty simple,” Reed said. “It’s my first time here. My friend told me how great it is, so here we are.”