Cave City celebrates sweetest watermelons
By Jill Rohrbach
Cave City bills itself as having the “world’s sweetest watermelons.” Find out for yourself July 29-31 during the 41st annual Watermelon Festival, which offers three days packed full of fun and entertainment for the entire family.
Activities include a children’s fishing derby, 5K run, car show, pancake breakfast, parade, school alumni reunion, speed eating contest, seed spitting contest, free watermelon feast, prize melon auction, incredible food, kids wet zone, and live music. Local businesses will hold special events throughout town as well.
The festival is the largest in the region. While watermelons are at the center of the celebration, the people and businesses that make the Cave City area one of the greatest places in Arkansas are also celebrated.
The event starts Thursday, July 29 with live music. Taking the stage at 6 p.m. is The Ellis Family, followed by Believers Worship Group at 7 p.m. and the Jordan Family Band at 8 p.m.
Friday activities begin at 8 a.m. and last all day. Music starts at 6 p.m. with Erin Walters, followed y MaryBeth Byrd and Danielle Peck. Peck hosts SiriusXM’s Y2Kountry and is an accomplished recording artist and performer. Soon to be release is her third studio album, “How Freedom Feels.” No stranger to country fans, she’s enjoyed chart success with the songs “I Don’t,” “Findin’ A Good Man” and “Isn’t That Everything.” Peck has cultivated a loyal fan base on the road, performing hundreds of shows both as a headliner and in support of country music’s biggest names.
Saturday kicks off with the Melon Dash 5K at 7 a.m. at the city park and a Kiwanis Pancake Breakfast at First Baptist Church. The Watermelon Parade is at 10 a.m.Live music begins at noon and features Deadwood Grove, followed by The Gravel Yard Bluegrass Band. The Watermelon Growers Games begin at 3 p.m. with a free watermelon feast at 4 p.m. The prize melon auction is at 5 p.m. and benefits Arkansas Children’s Hospital. Live music begins at 5:45 p.m. with Anna Brinker, followed by Dixon Street and Tracy Byrd. Byrd signed to MCA Nashville Records in 1992, breaking through on the country music scene that year with his 1993 single “Holdin’ Heaven,” which reached number one on Billboard Hot Country Singles & Tracks.
It’s likely festival goers will hear him play “Watermelon Crawl,” a fitting song to help celebrate this Cave City festival.
The watermelon growers work hard all year long to produce the festival watermelons and proudly stand behind every melon they sell. Only genuine Cave City Watermelons have the registered trademark sticker.
About Arkansas Tourism
Arkansas Tourism, a division of the Arkansas Department of Parks, Heritage and Tourism, strives to expand the economic impact of travel and tourism in the state and enhance the quality of life for all Arkansans. The division manages 14 Arkansas Welcome Centers and employs more than 60 staff members across The Natural State. For more information, visit www.arkansas.com
Cathy Drew is a lifelong resident of the region that she loves to promote. As a matter of fact, she was born in downtown Batesville in the late ’60s, which is in one of the eight counties she now enjoys encouraging people to visit.
She has a son, Jonathon (Jon) Drew, his wife Devyn Stewart. Drew is also grandmother to Jon and Devyn’ s son, Jase Drew.
However, Drew can’t skip the other part of her family: the pets! Lady Bird (a stray dog welcomed into their home in June 2012) and of course, Howard – – a puppy compliments of Lady Bird shortly after arriving at the Drew home. They also have Bullet, a stray they adopted in November of 2016.
Drew, became associated with the Ozark Gateway Region in 1990 while working at the ad agency (The Media Market Inc.). The agency handled marketing for the regional association where she along with her co-workers produced an annual tabloid publication. She began work as the director of the Ozark Gateway Region In June 2000.
After Drew became director, she took the region to the next level by helping the tourism organization create a new website and moved it from the old newspaper paper tabloid publication to a color magazine format.
Over the years Drew has helped the organization meet new marketing goals, such as in- and out-of-state marketing, assuring that all 105,000 copies of their magazines are distributed each year.
Drew also helped the region create a heritage trail map that is still on posters in many establishments across the region and Arkansas. She oversaw development of a motorcycle route map that folds into a credit card format for riders, as well as those seeking scenic routes to enjoy the beautiful Ozark Mountains.
She has attended several AARP Shows across the U.S., representing Arkansas. She helped open a visitor center for the Ozark Gateway, allowing visitors to pick up information from across the entire state 24/7.
In 2016, she assisted creating the first Ozark Gateway Region Golf Classic and the tournament continues to grow each year, allowing the organization to grow its co-op program, helping each county have dedicated promotion. Drew stays busy at Ozark Gateway as the ad sales manager, magazine editor, day-to-day office operations, trade show representative, as well as magazine distribution representative all while making sure that the region is represented all over Arkansas and southern Missouri.
Drew has been featured in several local and statewide publications over the years as well as the 1997 cover of the Ozark Gateway Region tabloid along with her then 4-year-old son, Jon. She has received several awards such as the Batesville Rotarian of the Year in 2010 as well as a three-time Paul Harris Fellow.
She also has served as an Independence County election commissioner for several years and now serves as their co-election coordinator, helping with behind-the-scenes management of voting equipment, day-to-day election deadlines as well as poll worker training.
Drew serves on the Arkansas Travel Council Board of Directors, Ozark Foothills Film Fest Board of Directors, Batesville Rotary Club Past President and is the Rotary Clubs current publicity chair.
In March of 2018, Drew was honored with induction into the Arkansas Tourism Hall of Fame for her many years of dedicated service to the tourism industry.