The annual Panhandle Watermelon Festival is set for this weekend in historic Chipley, Florida. This is a FREE event!

The 62nd Annual Panhandle Watermelon Festival is set for this Friday and Saturday (June 22-23) in Chipley, Florida.

This wonderful annual event celebrate’s Chipley’s heritage as a major shipping point for watermelons, a commercial activity that began in the area almost as soon as the railroad arrived and the city was founded. The Chipley Banner reported in June 1893, for example, that train loads of watermelons were leaving the community and that “Mr. Danley, Mr. Lockey and Mr. Clark” were sending out the largest shipments.

According to E.W. Carswell’s book Washington: Florida’s Twelfth County, Fred Cope sent out the first carload in 1927, making a then remarkable price of $700 for it. Chipley shipped 250 rail cars of watermelons in June – July of that year. Ross Deal became the “West Florida Watermelon King” in 1950 when he revitalized the industry by establishing a new watermelon market in Chipley. Hundreds of shipments of melons left the the market by rail and truck over the next 30 years.

Workers load watermelons to ship by rail. State Archives of Florida/Memory Collection

Watermelon production remains a major industry in Washington County and the surrounding area to this day. Truck and trailer loads of watermelons can be seen moving on local roads and highways each June and July, with some areas now also producing a fall crop.

This year’s Panhandle Watermelon Festival kicks off at 5 p.m. on Friday when the gates open for entertainment at Chipley’s PALS Park. The complex is located at 1544 N. Railroad Avenue in Chipley, Florida. See the map below for directions. Activities on Saturday are set for multiple locations and include a pancake breakfast, a “Hot Trot” run, car show, watermelon auction, crowning of the queens, vendors, entertainment and more.

The Panhandle Watermelon Festival is a FREE event!

Here’s the schedule for this year’s events:

Friday, June 22

Chipley’s PALS Park

1544 N. Railroad Ave.

5:00 p.m.

  • Wendell Mobley & Paul Overstreet
  • Deana Carter
  • Joe Nichols
A sand castle at the Panhandle Watermelon Festival in historic Chipley, Florida! Courtesy of the Panhandle Watermelon Festival.

Saturday, June 23

7:00 a.m.          Pancake Breakfast at the Panhandle Shrine Club

7:30 a.m.          “Hot Trot” at Florida Panhandle Technical College

8:00 a.m.          Car Show registration begins at Florida Panhandle Technical College

10:00 a.m.             Parade (Downtown Chipley)

10:45 a.m.         Performance by the Drummond Family at the Washington County Ag Center

11:45 a.m.          Introduction of the Queens at the Washington County Ag Center

12:00 noon       Watermelon Auction at the Washington County Ag Center

1:45 p.m.           Wendell Mobley & Paul Overstreet at the Washington County Ag Center

For more information on the festival, please visit www.panhandlewatermelon.com.

For information on Washington County hotels, restaurants and other great things to do, please see https://visitwcfla.com/.

The map below will help you find Chipley’s PALS Park for Friday’s events. The Panhandle Technical College and Washington County Ag Center, scenes of Saturday’s activities, are both on West Jackson Street (US 90 West).