Published 12:00 am Thursday, August 17, 2006

The storms stayed away and an occasional breeze refreshed the weary, as the hand fans waved and the lemonade went down cold atop a pine-covered hill last Saturday. It was Watermelon Jubilee time once again.

The YMCA-sponsored, two-day event brought vendors and visitors from across the southeast to the Camellia City to browse among the wares, sample festival foods, take a gander at vintage tractors, and hear talented area singers and musicians perform.

And of course, being Watermelon Jubilee, there was plenty of ice-cold, red, ripe watermelon to enjoy.

Cassie Waller, age seven, was one of those taking advantage of the free fruit.

When asked if her slice of watermelon was good, the blue-eyed cuties from Milton, Fla. just gave a big grin and nodded.

Pony rides, a rock climbing wall, gemstone panning, a duck pond and children’s toy booth were all offered for little ones like Cassie.

Jacqui Sport’s face painting booth once again proved a crowd pleaser.

The Luverne artist created a pink fairytale mask for six-year-old Winsday Tetter of McKenzie, who was all smiles when she caught a glimpse of the pretty princess seen in Sport’s hand mirror.

&uot;I want the USA on my face,&uot; announced Prattville’s Hollon Baxley, four (as it turns it, she wanted Sports’ rendering of the American flag).

Hollon’s mom, Wendy Baxley, explained her daughter was &uot;very patriotic.&uot;

&uot;She asks us to stand and say the Pledge of Allegiance at home,&uot; Baxley laughed.

Jaslyn Nichols of Troy, seven, climbed aboard what she was proud to point out was &uot;the biggest pony&uot; and took a ride Saturday afternoon.

&uot;That was really fun,&uot; she said with a grin.

Strains of music rang out over the hill, as headliners Neal and Faith Braden performed country and pop hits throughout the day and proved real crowd pleasers. Son Tyler soloed on tunes like &uot;I Believe I Can Fly.&uot; Teen Holley Matthews also shared her vocal talents Saturday afternoon, with southern bluegrass gospel group Southern Comfort slated to perform Sunday.

Not only were local talents on display, area businesses and organizations were also represented at Jubilee. Kathy Smyth and the Safe Harbor crew handed out free balloons to the kiddies. Bob Foster and the gang from L.V. Stabler Memorial Hospital offered free blood pressure checks and cholesterol screenings along with bottles of ice-cold water, cups and hand fans.

Smoochie, a well-behaved seven-month-old Dachshund, played the hospital’s mascot as he strolled the paths wearing his own colorful bouquet of balloons with his &uot;sister,&uot; eight-year-old Ashlyn McCowen.

Joe Maines of Sunrise Memorial Park gave attendees a change to register for a free family heirloom Bible.

&uot;It’s been nice so far. We’ve had quite a few people interested in getting information about monument, our eternal life crosses…this is for public relations, to let people know we are here and what we have,&uot; Maines explained.

Some of Greenville High’s most enthusiastic supporters, its cheerleading squad and sponsors, were on hand to paint faces and offer the brand new

&uot;Greenville Football-Bring It Back!&uot; t-shirts for sale.

&uot;We are really excited about this year…we love the shirts and want people to wear them to our games,&uot; Kimberlei Bowen, GHS teacher and sponsor, explained.

For hungry Jubilee goers, vendors offered a variety of foods, including sweet roasted corn, fried eggplant, onion fries, shish kabob, popped kettle corn, homemade ice cream and more to feast on.

For those who simply wanted to feast their eyes on artistic beauty, vendors like Cindy Leutzinger of Greenville, who offered an array of her photographic work, were also in attendance.

&uot;Normally, I got to juried art shows, rather than arts and crafts festivals, but this is a special occasion. This is Greenville, my hometown, and it’s for the YMCA, a good cause, so here I am,&uot; Leutzinger explained.

&uot;I thought it would be nice for local people to see what I do and why I am gone so much on the weekends.&uot;

Pottery, handmade soaps and candles, jewelry, stained glass, children’s furniture and clothing, handcrafted baskets, handcrafted purses, original art, birdhouses, custom made knifes and more were offered by artisans, artists and vendors at Jubilee.

Doyle Sasser, Lions Club president, presided over a contest requiring another type of artistry – spitting, as in watermelon seeds.

&uot;Right now, our record to beat for the adult category is 27.1 feet and for the kids, it’s 15.4 feet…we’ll be doing it again tomorrow,&uot; Sasser said mid-afternoon on Saturday.

At the Jubilee country store, volunteer Debra Nichols enjoyed a breeze wafting across the front porch (&uot;This has been the hang-out place when people wanted to come and cool off&uot;) and said plans for Jubilee 2007 would start this week.

&uot;Everybody’s been wanting t-shirts and also looking for those homemade jams and jellies…something we’ll have to think about for next year.&uot;

Jacqui Sport hoped for a busier and, just maybe, cooler day on Sunday.

&uot;I wasn’t as busy as I was last year. I had to miss Jubilee on Sunday last year, but this year I will get to be here, so we’ll wait and see,&uot; the makeup artist said.