By Misty DUPLESSIS
The Sunland-Tujunga Lions Club has proudly hosted the longest running, largest non-profit festival in Los Angeles for over 50 years.
The annual Watermelon Festival, which celebrated its 51st year this past weekend, has been a lively tradition in an otherwise quiet town.
The crew began setting up for the three-day event at Sunland Park on Wednesday morning, Aug. 8 with the gates opening to the public at 5 p.m. on Friday.
The $5 admission gave visitors the chance to hear live music, participate in raffles and contests and enjoy a variety of food from favorite food vendors of past events.
There was a Kids Splash Zone where the little ones cooled off during the days of triple-digit temperatures and visitors of all ages participated in activities such as the Funni Farm maze and the Round Up rotating ride.
Lake View Terrace youth organization Blue Shadows Mounted Drill Team hosted a carnival station where for a few dollars participants tried their luck to win a prize after shooting a ball into a bowl.
Perhaps the highlight of each evening was the free all you can eat watermelon station where members of Verdugo Hills High School football team worked non-stop to make sure that perfect slices of watermelon were available for all to enjoy.
Lions Club member Bob Douglas has been a part of the Watermelon Festival for 28 years and said that the heat kept a lot of people away this year.
“Last year at this time I had four bins of watermelon left; [this year] I have 16,” said Douglas.
Although attendance was not as good as it had been in the past, the heat did not keep the Czarnecki family from their yearly tradition of attending.
The festival also attracted first timers like Ricardo Santillan and his family who came from Hacienda Heights after hearing about the event.
Money raised will be donated to dozens of the organizations around town that the club supports, such as MEND, Guide Dogs of America, Boy and Girl Scouts and schools located in the Sunland-Tujunga area.