Crop underdeveloped; festival canceled

Published 8:12 am Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Too much rain has led to the cancellation of the annual Fourth of July Watermelon Festival.

As in past years, the city of Bogalusa invited growers to display their melons at the festival. But recent rains have damaged watermelon crops, according to a local grower.

John Gallaspy grows approximately three acres near Louisiana Highway 60. He has grown melons for 72 years.

The festival is promoted by local merchants.

“We were informed about April that that the watermelon season was non-productive,” Bogalusa Mayor Wendy Perrette said.

Perrette said the city will host the Fourth of July Parade, which will start rolling at 10 a.m., along with a fireworks show put on by the American Legion that evening.

“Watermelons currently on the market are not as good as they should be. Mine have had standing water on them, which keeps the small melons from setting,” Gallaspy said. “We’ve been getting two or three days of rain and then two or three days of bright sunshine. I measured 15 inches of rain for May. As a result, the crop is very retarded.”

Visitors to Gallaspy’s patch on Tuesday afternoon observed standing water between the rows.

Gallaspy said he remembers the first watermelon patch he grew.

“My first patch I grew was during World War II, in 1943,” Gallaspy said. “Melons then sold for 1.5 cents per pound. You could get 30 cents for a 20-pound melon. Now you’re getting 30 or 40 cents per pound,” Gallaspy said. “I have never seen a year as disastrous as this year. I can’t explain it.”

Despite the wet conditions, Gallaspy said he will have some melons to market.

“Yes, I’ll have some melons to market, but they will be very limited,” Gallaspy said. “I can only hope they will be of good quality.”

Former Bogalusa Mayor Charles Mizell got the Watermelon Festival going.

Gallaspy said it was not all that long ago growers took their melons to the Washington Parish Fairgrounds, where they had them weighed and competed for prizes.

“In previous years, people at the Fair Grounds in Franklinton weighed melons in the livestock barn. And there was professional entertainment. That wore down about 10 years ago,” Gallaspy said.