40 years of watermelon runners in Monticello

It is easy to say 40 years is a long time to do just about anything; but for the Kiwanis Club of Monticello, an organization with 93 years of serving Monticello, 40 years has been a blink of an eye.

In 1978, a few dedicated Kiwanis members decided to present a 5K Melon Run into the 28th Jefferson County Watermelon Festival. Taking place well before Forrest Gump made running trendy and decades before yoga pants became high fashion, the 1978 Melon Run was a massive success and was a starting point for a strong, Jefferson County tradition that continues today.

The race has grown over the last 40 years to be a premier regional event known by its North Florida and South Georgia participants as a scenic stroll through historic Monticello with a surprise at the end - 'heart-break hill'. But besides the 'heart-break hill', many local runners enjoy the event. As one of the Melon Run’s long-standing runners, Al Cooksey pointed out that the event has been a wonderful opportunity for generations of runners to get out and run together.

“It is a great family event. What I enjoy most now is seeing families running together and young adults I taught in school competing," said Cooksey. "It is nice knowing about every third runner who passes.”

As this year’s Race Director, Kiwanian Floyd Faglie explained: “The longevity of the 5K Melon Run has caused the event to become a rare generational event. Some of the folks who ran the race as teenagers and young adults are now running the race with their children – I think we have a few grandparents huffing and puffing with their grandkids.”

Funds raised during the Melon Run go directly to the Kiwanis Club of Monticello’s non-profit Youth, Inc. and are used to financially support local youth organizations and provide college scholarships to local graduates. “It is easy to understand that the leadership and vision of those Kiwanis members who started the race in 1978 greatly helped enhance youth activities in our area and assisted local graduates to get their start in college,” commented Kiwanis President Fred Beshears.

This year's 5K Melon Run will be held on Saturday, June 16 at 8:15 a.m. Registration will begin at 7 a.m. at the First United Methodist Church Family Ministry Center. There is also a 4K (approx. 2.5 Mile) untimed Walk. Pre-register at WatermelonRun2018.com.