ELLERBE — Giggling like girls, the men of the Ellerbe Volunteer Fire Department beat back those grappling for soapy watermelons, using double the hose power of years past at the Ellerbe Lions’ Fourth of July fete.
But still the intrepid melon cravers came — some, succesfully, grabbing the slippery fruits at risk of lost pants and lost footing in the newly swampy grass.
“Runaway melon!” firefighters called as an occasional green-striped orb slipped away. “There it goes! Down the hill!”
By midafternoon, the contest had become a bit more aggressive yet no less good natured as bigger kids crashed into the bins holding the prize melons, cracking them and spilling the fruits and several gallons of water siphoned from Lions Lake.
A football field’s length away from the fray, families set up their grills and coolers for what has become a yearly event for some, such as Robyn and Justin Berry of Rockingham.
“This is like a family tradition,” said Justin Berry, adding that the couple were waiting for the arrival of several others, including in-laws.
“We come out here, we bring friends,” said Robyn Berry. Then they feed them all hot dogs, hamburgers and chips, she said, and hand out sparklers to the small children nearby.
Sheriff’s Deputy Chris Smith was on hand for the celebration, remembering tractor rides he took around the lake as a child attending the decades-old celebration. This time around, he was working a holiday shift so he could make sure others could have fun safely.
“I enjoy it,” he said, remarking that it was no less fun working the event. “We volunteered to do this.”
Gates to Lions Park opened at noon. Opening celebrations began at 2 p.m.
At 4 p.m, the Lions announced the Lion of the Year, Donnie Richardson, after 10-year-old Alyssa Sellers sang a nervously rendered national anthem.
At 4:30 p.m, the bands came out.
At about 5, the “wrasslers” of Adrenaline Pro Wrestling strutted and hulked into the nearby arena, ready to rumble.
And for hours still, cars full of celebrants continued to pull into the park, ready to tailgate and watch fireworks after dark.
Reach Christine Carroll at 910-817-2673 or [email protected]