Left: A.J. Worley
Right: Monroe Enzor, Sr.
The North Carolina Watermelon Festival has a deep and rich history. It began in the summer of 1986 around the last weekend in July with two best friends, Monroe Enzor, Sr. and A.J. Worley, yet the roots of it began as early as 1979, when the two men began comparing watermelons. Both men were semi-retired farmers and wanted a fun hobby to do. Mr. Monroe purchased some watermelon seeds from a stand near Ocean Isle Beach and decided to plant them to see if he could grow watermelons. He was very successful in this task because one of his watermelons got to be around 117 pounds! He shared this experience with his friend A.J. and A.J. eventually found some good seeds out of an Arkansas magazine. He sent straight off for them and when they arrived, in the ground they went. His watermelon got to be a little bigger than Monroe's and weighed approximately 120 pounds.
A.J. and Monroe began comparing watermelons as early as 1979, carrying their prize melons into town on the backs of their pick up trucks to weigh and to see who could brag the most. In years that followed the crowds coming into the little town of Fair Bluff began to increase with the excitement of the watermelon contest between these two friends. There was a spark in the air as they watched the twinkle in the eye of the friend that grew the largest watermelons. Seeing the crowds that the event drew, these two friends started an organization known as the Fair Bluff Watermelon Growers Association, Inc. and from this a festival began. Miss America came to town to kick off the festival and crown the first Watermelon Queen. Miss America was sponsored by the Fair Bluff Women’s Club. Over the years, with help from family and friends, the watermelon contest between the two friends became known as the Fair Bluff Watermelon Festival. In or around the year of 1993, the Fair Bluff Watermelon Growers Association, Inc. and the Murfreesboro Watermelon Festival filed to become the NC Watermelon Festival. Because both festivals began on or about the same time, the North Carolina General Assembly recognized both festivals to be the North Carolina Watermelon Festival. Fair Bluff’s Watermelon Festival was recognized as the Southeastern NC Watermelon Festival and the Murfreesboro Watermelon Festival was recognized as the Northeastern NC Watermelon Festival. In 1993, Kimberly Kirby became the first Southeastern NC Watermelon Festival Queen and in 2002, by the NC General Assembly, Tracy Register became the first NC Watermelon Festival Queen of the Southeastern Region of North Carolina.
It is said that the contest between these two friends became so popular that they had to hide their watermelon patches and guard them to keep the melons from being stolen. If their secret in growing large melons was in the knotching stick they often chuckling referred to no one actually ever knew, because these two friends would and did switch watermelons on occasion, depending on which one they wanted to walk away with the glory. In 1991 Fair Bluff lost both of these outstanding men within a week. The festivals have not been the same without their spirits and happy-go-lucky personalities to brighten the lives of their family and friends, but they still live on through the happy memories that are recorded in our minds.
At the festival you can always hear someone say, "Do you remember when A.J. and Monroe did this...?" A festival based on friendship and honesty has increased to include the surrounding areas and new events and new ideas are added each year, stemming from the melon patches of two great friends, who will always be remembered as the heart of the N.C. Watermelon Festival in Fair Bluff.
Retold and recollected by:
Judy Enzor, Executive Director & Emily Worley, Secretary
Fair Bluff Watermelon Growers Association, Inc. © 1998
© Revised 2004-2016