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Big changes

South Boston News
SoVaNow.com / January 14, 2013
Big changes are coming to the 2013 Virginia Cantaloupe Festival, with the popular event getting not only a new home but a new date.

Making the move from the Halifax County Fairgrounds, the Cantaloupe Festival will be held this year at Berry Hill Resort and Conference Center. The festival also is being bumped up to the first Friday in June (June 7 this year) to beat the heat that has dampened attendance at past festivals, held in late July.

Although the June festival will transpire before the local cantaloupe crop has come in, the festival will continue to put the spotlight on Halifax County’s farm delicacy. Market fresh melons will be served at the Cantaloupe Festival, and a Chamber of Commerce Business After Hours is being planned for July when the local melons are ripe.

“Our idea is to kick off the summer and celebrate early before the weather gets too hot. Although cantaloupe is a crop that matures in July, we agreed to not let that stop us from changing the date and hosting a great event for our community,” said Festival Chairman Kathy Farley.

“This change has created a lot of excitement,” she said.

The Chamber is also excited by the move to Berry Hill, which the organizers believe will recapture the casual ambience of the original festival, held at John Wade’s farm in cantaloupe-rich Turbeville.

“Understandably it has not been the same since it moved from John Wade’s farm,” said Nancy Pool, Halifax County Chamber President, who has been around for every festival since the inaugural event in Turbeville in 1981.

“There always seemed to be a breeze in the pine trees out there. It may have been the setting. We believe that Berry Hill is the perfect location to accommodate the essential elements to which we must adhere and still have the ambience people like,” said Pool.

The heat and the location were the top complaints about the Cantaloupe Festival in past years, according to the organizers.

With the earlier event date, tickets will go on sale to the general public on April 1. Sales will be limited to only 1,500 tickets and a sell-out is anticipated.

The Chamber also has arranged with Berry Hill to provide rooms at the plantation resort on the night of the festival for businesses and organizations that take out sponsorship packages. The Chamber has contracted the whole facility. If any rooms are available after sponsorships, they will be offered for sale to ticket purchasers.

As an added incentive, anyone who buys tickets online at http://www.valopefest.com between April 1 and April 30 will be entered into a drawing to win a room for the night of the festival, one entry for every ticket. The drawing will take place on May 1.

“We are thrilled to move [the festival] to Berry Hill. Why not celebrate one of the county’s greatest products at one of the county’s greatest treasures?” said Farley. “We have been unable to replicate the pristine setting of John Wade’s farm and have been hearing about it for years. Berry Hill offers the ambience that has been missing.”

To complete the celebration, a Chamber Business After Hours is being planned for July when the local melons are ripe and ready for consumption. Although all the details are not finalized, it will be an event where the delicious local cantaloupes will be available and celebrated.

The Virginia Cantaloupe Festival has long promoted Halifax County melons and other crops that have been local staples for years. Coles Berry Farm grows blackberries and other berries that have been served at the festival with locally-grown watermelons and other fruits.

The festival is the major fundraiser for the Halifax County Chamber of Commerce, which depends heavily on festival profits to carry out its mission. The Chamber is a pro-business, pro-economic development organization with a membership of approximately 400 enterprises.

Halifax County.

“Member businesses can count on the Chamber to promote them and advocate on their behalf. The Chamber keeps a finger on the pulse of activities and where action is needed, the Chamber is there. No other organization has this mission and role to represent the business community,” said Pool. “I am proud to work for such an active and engaged organization that does not back down from challenges.”

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Comments

Define "market fresh" in June. Sounds like Mexico or California grown fruit to me. Thought the whole purpose of this thing was to promote HALIFAX COUNTY GROWN melons? which do not come in until July and August. Heat? it's a hot weather crop, folks.

What is the cost of renting Berry Hill (out-of-town owned) vs the Fairgrounds (locally owned) for this event?

For an organization whose stated purpose is to promote LOCAL business and LOCAL products, looks like the C of C sure is promoting someone else's business and products.

Comments

I am going to have to agree. Everyone that lives in the south knows that July and August are the hot months. It's a given. The festival is supposed to support LOCAL growers and help the community. The only thing you will be helping by moving it to june is Berry Hill's (whatever major company owns it now) pockets and whatever grocery store has agreed to help you get the melons in. Moving it again will just lower attendance even more. Half the people that visit Halifax County can not even find Berry Hill. The signs are too small and not very well placed. PLUS, this festival like many others has a lot of alcohol and alcohol related mishaps. Do we really want these things to happen at Berry Hill? It should go back to a farm and it should be in the cantaloupe season....if anything...move the date further back.

Comments

Change the name. It may be a very nice money-making event, but it will certainly NOT be the Cantelope Festival that has been historically held in Halifax County. To compare the 'ambiance' of Berry Hill to John Wade's farm is silly. They are such different animals. To have a Halifax County festival without Halifax County produce is a very negative move towards our farmers. Just call it what it is instead of what it 'ain't'. I foresee a REAL Halifax Cantelope Festival, with Halifax County produce, reviving itself, without the Chamber, somewhere back on a farm in Turbeville sometime soon. Maybe they will call it the Landmark Festival, or the Plantation Festival, or some other fancy name; but what's in a name?

Comments

CofC, while you're at it the 'Lopefest website really needs updating. It still references the 2012 event.

Maybe I'm a little more sensitive to this thing than most, since my family were part of the original Turbeville Cantaloupe Growers group way back in the 70s. After my dad died I realised that growing melons was hard and labor intensive work that I just did not have time enough to devote to while still maintaining a fulltime job.

The thought has crossed my mind to grow them again in retirement, but if the 'Lopefest is not going to use Halifax County or in particular Turbeville grown melons in their showcase event, what would be the point?

Comments

I have attended the VCF every time I could since the very beginning. I still have an interest in attending the event. However, it is no longer the VCF. If the Chamber wants to host a lovely fundraiser with any theme they'd like, it's entirely up to them. But it should be renamed to reflect the actual event. It seems a little dishonest to trade on the old name when the event has changed.

Other than that, sounds like a great event!


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