By Pat KRAMER
Since moving out of Sunland three years ago, the 54th annual Watermelon Festival will be held this year at the Hansen Dam Soccer Complex, 11480 Foothill Blvd. in Lakeview Terrace. The event runs Saturday, Aug. 13 from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. and Sunday, Aug. 14 from noon to 10 p.m. General admission is $10 for adults and $6 for kids 3 – 12 although those wearing watermelon-themed attire get in free. Parking is also free onsite.
This year’s festival is a joint effort between the Lions Club and the Sunland-Tujunga Chamber of Commerce with this expansive site offering two days of family-friendly activities like a disc golf demonstration, a first-time zip line, a carnival, petting zoo and pony rides. There will be a Kids Zone with arts and crafts and a puppet theater. In addition, there will be a watermelon relay, seed spitting contest, displays of watermelon carving and, of course, free watermelon. Providing music all weekend long are a bevy of local artists who will serenade festival-goers with funk, doo wop, blues, Caribbean, oldies, jazz and The Beatles cover tunes.
To keep the festival safe, strict rules will be enforced, including no smoking or vaping; no ice chests, coolers or chairs; no skateboards, bicycles, or boom boxes; no alcoholic beverages or outside food; and no pets allowed, other than certified service dogs.
Reflecting on the new location this year, Sunland-Tujunga Chamber of Commerce President Michael Moncreiff said, “In a perfect world, we’d love to see the festival return to Sunland Park but we need the park to cooperate more with us regarding the event fees. Also, we are not serving alcohol this year because, financially, it doesn’t make sense.”
On the plus side, he added, “[The City of Los Angeles Dept. of] Rec and Parks is providing us with as much support as they can because this is a first-time location, and we are really thankful that they are being so accommodating. We’re making a herculean effort to get this festival going again. I hope our community will support it and all of our vendors to make this a banner year and allow us to continue.”
Behind the scenes, many of the local radio stations have stepped up as official sponsors for the festival such as: 93.1 Jack FM, K-Earth 101, KHTS AM 1220, KOST FM 103.5, KTLA News 5, 104.3 MY FM, 100.3 FM The Sound, and 94.7 The Wave. Firepoint Church and the City of Los Angeles are also official sponsors with Hamer Toyota, a supporting sponsor. Participating sponsors include SolarCity, Mark’s Lock and Key, The San Fernando Valley Sun, and Karo Torossian, City of L.A. Director of Planning and the Environment.
“We could not do this without a lot of high school volunteers and community members pitching in; it’s a lot of work and long hours!” said Julie Cuddihy, Lions Club volunteer coordinator. “Our 120 or so volunteers this year include STNC Youth Council members Matthew Kruse and Desiree Marquez. It’s just amazing to see everyone working together to make it happen.”
For information about the Watermelon Festival, visit www.watermelonfest.org.