On Thursday afternoon, the normally quiet Fair Park of Hope was bustling with activity as over 100 vendors started setting up and transforming the area into a miniature vendor city. Elsewhere on the park grounds, local groups, like the Kiwanis were already preparing for their barbecue chicken dinner later in the evening as the 41st annual Hope Watermelon Festival got started.

On Thursday afternoon, the normally quiet Fair Park of Hope was bustling with activity as over 100 vendors started setting up and transforming the area into a miniature vendor city.  Elsewhere on the park grounds, local groups, like the Kiwanis were already preparing for their barbecue chicken dinner later in the evening as the 41st annual Hope Watermelon Festival got started.
Earlier in the day, organizers of the Watermelon Festival Concert announced that all the scheduled Saturday night performances, including headliner Joe Diffie, would be relocated to Hempstead Hall on the UA Hope campus. Also, moving were the undercard performances by Dillan Cate, Rachel Hale, and the Watermelon Idol finals, which will start at 6 p.m.
Last year, the Oak Ridge Boys were moved to Hempstead Hall when rain came the mid-afternoon, just prior to their performance. This year, organizers told the Chamber board they were going to proactive in getting an announcement out earlier.
Thursday afternoon, however, as setups and vendors were arriving, the weather seemed to behave with fairly mild temperatures for August, in the mid-80s, and partly cloudy skies.  Rain is expected to show up Friday, and possibly all day Saturday.
The anticipation Thursday, however, was evident as small early crowds started showing up shortly after 12 noon, even as some vendors were still setting up and others had yet to arrive.
One such vendor was Roger Pfalzgraf from Carbondale, Illinois, who was selling his unique “Strato-Crappers,” which was basically a working variety of homemade guitar. He freely demonstrated the device to all comers, including Randy and Misty Banks, last year’s Watermelon Idol winners, who happened to stop by.
Misty Banks said, “I guess we are retired now, but I think it would be really neat if you could get all the Watermelon Idol winners together over the past 10 years for a concert.”
Randy Banks was busy playing one of Pfalzgraf’s creations, saying “This thing really plays.”
New Chamber Director Beckie Moore was on hand and already working in the Fair office; she officially started her duties earlier this week and met with the Chamber board on Wednesday for an update.
“I am pleased. We are just buzzing about today.  Vendors are opening. We have 111 already in place. We have 11 brand new ones this year, and people are already coming into the park. The new children’s area has the inflatables ready, all new ones for this year, and we also have pony rides,” Moore said.
Moore added that some vendors will come in for Saturday only, too.
The annual Kiwanis Chicken dinner was scheduled for Thursday night as the Hope Star was going to press.
Today, the Festival will open its doors at 9 a.m. with concessions open for lunch. The annual Lions Fish Fry will run from 4:30 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. with the Festival Softball tournament and a new Baggo tournament, both getting started after 7 p.m.
Beta Sigma Phi is scheduled to serve Ice Cream in the Coliseum, also after 7 p.m.