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Watermelon social was worth the rain

It did not seem possible.

Saturday, August 21, 1999

It did not seem possible. It had been months since any type of measurable rain had dampened Ironton, and it just seemed unbelievable that the skies would turn threatening on the day the Ironton Business Association and The Tribune had planned their joint block party in honor of the city’s sesquicentennial year.

Suddenly, the wind kicked up a ruckus, and the dark clouds turned into storm clouds. We all ran inside seeking cover from the storm.

By 5:30 p.m., the rain had almost stopped, with occasional sprinkles dampening the volunteers who were setting up the stage for the band, Southern Thunder, and setting up tables and icing down the dozens of watermelons that the Dawson-Bryant School District had been kind enough to keep in their cooler for the past 24 hours.

By 6:30 p.m., the band had set up on the stage, and Kathie Bryant and Joanna Stapleton of The Tribune staff were taking their positions in the Pepsi booth.

All the while, The Tribune’s watermelon social coordinator, Melissa Scott, was standing sadly in the middle of the lot, staring at the sky.

"I’m in a state of denial," she said, fearing that weeks of hard work and planning were about to be deluged by a downpour.

But, even though the skies stayed dark, the temperatures were delightfully cool and the storm held off until just after 9 p.m.

Several hundred residents enjoyed two hours of food, fun and good music. Together, we celebrated our heritage, our future and the present.

We owe a special thanks to the following folks for their help and support in making the watermelon social such a success:

Lou Pyles and the Ironton Business Association – these dedicated people shared with The Tribune in the cost of the band as well as the watermelons. Lou and her colleagues were invaluable in putting the event together.

Sue Massie, director of marketing with River Valley Health System – Sue and the caring professionals at our local hospital provided complimentary ice cream treats for residents at the watermelon social, and RVHS representatives also registered children with their important KidCare ID program.

Weber Bros. Florist and Gifts – These kind folks donated seed pots and potting soil so the first 40 children on the lot Thursday night could grow their own watermelon vine from a seed.

Hecla Water Association – Regina Fields and her colleagues at Hecla Water donated the water for attendees to drink Thursday night. Considering the water problems the city experienced that night, Hecla Water’s donation was especially appreciated.

Other sponsors who helped immensely include Ironton Mayor Bob Cleary, Pepsi Cola Bottling Co. of Franklin Furnace and Mootz Farm.

We also would like to thank young Kyle Taylor of Pedro. Kyle was our guest of honor because of the watermelon-growing honors he received during the Ohio State Fair this summer.

Last – but far from least – were the countless volunteer hours cheerfully provided by Tribune staffers. Reporter Melissa Scott spent weeks worrying over every detail. Production manager Bo Elliott tirelessly carried the stage, assembled it and generally helped everybody carry everything. Online editor Gina Fisher, news editor Allen Blair, photographer Lance Denee and Chris Payne hauled ice, tables, chairs and helped with security. Managing editor Renee Carey and ad director Brenda Renfroe were tireless as they stood for hours carving the watermelons and serving up slices with a smile.

The watermelon social truly was a group effort, and it just goes to show you how much we all can accomplish when we set our minds to it.

It was a great evening, and hundreds of folks were able to enjoy something that is increasingly rare: clean, wholesome fun in a family atmosphere.

Given the fun we all had on Thursday night, maybe the city ought to plan block parties every August.

Jennifer Allen is publisher of The Ironton Tribune.