Melons for Moolah keeps its fundraising roots, expands to full-day festival

in events

Melons for Moolah, the event that broke a Guinness World Record for Safety Harbor in 2018, expands to a full day of family friendly fun in Safety Harbor Waterfront Park on July 6 this year.

This Melons for Moolah Watermelon Festival with free admission will benefit the Safety Harbor Library Foundation’s 20/20 Vision Campaign. Other local nonprofits will host carnival games and keep the proceeds for their own causes.

Fundraising has always been the seed of Melons for Moolah. It was created in the summer of 2017 by Scott Long, who then was a Safety Harbor City Commissioner. The first event was at the Gazebo on July 2, 2017, and featured the Mayor, all four Commissioners and five other local personalities eating watermelon.

“The idea was silly fun — asking Commissioners to eat watermelon,” said Long, who calls himself Chief Melon Officer. “But the goal was to use their stature in the community to raise money and awareness for nonprofit organizations.”

And it worked.

The event raised more than $7,500 for the non-profits the celebrity eaters chose: the Chi Chi Rodriguez Youth Foundation, Florida Sheriff’s Youth Ranches, Harbor Dish, the Ian Tillman Foundation, the Mattie Williams Neighborhood Family Center,  Paint Your Heart Out Safety Harbor, the Safety Harbor Public Library Foundation, the Safety Harbor Museum and the Safety Harbor Chamber of Commerce Foundation.

So many people asked to participate after the event that it was expanded in 2018 to attempt to break the Guinness World Record for “Largest Watermelon-Eating Contest.” On July 1, 2018, at Safety Harbor Waterfront Park, 259 official participants, aided by more than 100 volunteers, officially set the new World Record in the City of Safety Harbor’s name and raised more than $14,000 for various causes, including a trust fund to care for the daughter of Safety Harbor District Fire Chief Chris Palmieri, who had died less than two weeks before the event.

Other groups that benefited from the event were Autism Speaks, the Chi Chi Rodriguez Youth Foundation, Florida Sheriff’s Youth Ranches, Fostering Hope Florida, Habitat for Humanity, the Mattie Williams Neighborhood Family Center, Paint Your Heart Out Safety Harbor, Pawlicious Poochie Pet Rescue, the Safety Harbor Public Library Foundation, the Safety Harbor Museum, the Safety Harbor Chamber of Commerce Foundation and the SPCA Suncoast.

Scott Long and Cara Nobles practice for the big event. (Photo/Laura Long)

“For about 30 minutes, our often-divided city was ‘One Safety Harbor,’ and that’s the memory I’ll always have of that event. Breaking a World Record is a fantastic achievement, but the togetherness of the community was even more important to me,” Long said.

This year’s event won’t break a Guinness World Record, but it is unlike any other festival in town. Melons for Moolah and Safety Harbor Library Public Foundation Board Member Cara Nobles is putting together an array of contests — from watermelon seed-spitting to a balloon toss — for all ages to participate.

“We laughed so hard during our trial run (pictured) of these games,” Nobles said. “Seed spitting isn’t as gross as it sounds and actually requires a great amount of strategy. But the Watermelon Ball Relay Race is by far our favorite.”

There will be plenty of fun for all ages, including three inflatable water slides, food trucks, beer and wine, and the movie.


This year’s details

  • 3-10 p.m. Saturday, July 6, at Safety Harbor Waterfront Park. Admission is free.
  • Website: https://melonsformoolah.com/
  • Benefits the Safety Harbor Public Library Foundation’s 20/20 Vision Campaign, which has a goal of raising $500,000 to furnish the future second story addition to the library.
  • Rain or shine
  • Presenting sponsor is LocalShops1, an organization in Pinellas County that promotes supporting locally-owned and independent businesses. Other featured sponsors include Blake Real Estate, Gigglewaters Social Club & Screening Room, Seadog Cottages, Action Pro Realty and IERNA’s Heating, Cooling & Plumbing.
  • Sunstar will have a full medical tent on site.

Highlights

  • Kids Zone for ages 14 and younger with three large water slides ($5 bracelet for unlimited rides), free martial arts classes and prizes from Victory Martial Arts, kids crafts from Francie’s Studio on 5th, the Clearwater Threshers Fun Team and mascot Phinley and carnival games run by local nonprofit organizations, who will keep  the proceeds from their games.
  • Home Brew Biergarten for those 21 and older, featuring complimentary samples of 20 home brews from 12 home brewers from around the Tampa Bay region, as well as Crooked Thumb Brewery beer and wine for sale.
  • DJ entertainment and watermelon-themed contests, including Watermelon Eating, Seed Spitting, Relay Race, Water Balloon Toss and Costume/Outfit.
  • Family-friendly cult classic movie “Goonies” on a 25-foot screen at 8 p.m.
  • Plenty of food, including watermelon wedges to support The Harbor Dish, drink and craft and product vendors.
  • Yankee raffles, silent auctions and a 50/50 drawing. Highlights include a 7-night cruise for two and the melon ballers used in last year’s World Record-breaking event with Certificates of Authenticity.
  • Volunteers get free T-shirts commemorating last year’s World Record, and those who volunteer in the Kids Zone also get free water slide bracelets for their children.

“Our team tried hard to make this a festival that would appeal to everyone in some way,” Long said. “We’re excited about the positive response we are getting. More than 1,200 people have expressed interest on our Facebook event already.”

And that’s not all. Melons for Moolah will host WatermelonWeek with downtown businesses the week leading up to the event.

WatermelonWeek

WatermelonWeek is June 29 to July 5 to promote the event and downtown businesses. Safety Harbor restaurants and bars are creating watermelon-inspired dishes, drinks or desserts and pledging a portion of each sale to the Library Foundation.

There will be an online vote to choose the winner in each division, and there will be a Pub & Restaurant Crawl on July 3 to visit all participating locations that are open in the evening.

“Safety Harbor restaurants and bars love to compete and help their community,” Long said. “The creativity we’ve seen in entries already is outstanding. We hope WatermelonWeek will drive business to all of the participating establishments and raise even more money for the Library Foundation.”


Laura and her husband Scott Long are organizers of Melons for Moolah and Watermelon Week. Cara Nobles is a member of the of the Library Foundation Board and the Melons for Moolah Planning Board.

Laura is a guest contributor who has lived in Safety Harbor since 2000. In addition to the Melons for Moolah Planning Committee, she is on the Paint Your Heart Out Safety Harbor board and volunteers for numerous community groups. Reach her at lauralongwork@gmail.com.