SWEET SUCCESS: The mechanical ski pullers made all the difference at the Chinchilla Melon Festival.
SWEET SUCCESS: The mechanical ski pullers made all the difference at the Chinchilla Melon Festival. Brooke Duncan

Chinchilla bursting at the seams as Melon Festival unfolds

A WEIGH-IN record, water main, and hundreds of melons were all broken at the 2019 Melon Festival.

Thousands of visitors descended on Chinchilla for the biggest event in two years and Australia's juiciest festival.

While final numbers haven't been collated, organisers expect visitor numbers to have soared beyond the 15,000 mark.

It's an incredible number of attendees to fathom, with long-time festival committee members describing the crowd at the melon procession on Saturday at 8-15 people deep all the way from the Club Hotel to Hypatia St.

And attendance wasn't the only oversized number, with the melon weigh-in record thoroughly smashed on Friday afternoon.

Melon festival committee president Doug McNally said the 100.5kg melon grown by Geoff Frohloff "kicked our pants”.

"He's been a produce grower down in his area, around Minden, for a long time and he's got some secret that we haven't got out here,” Mr McNally said.

For vice-president and long-time melon grower Darryl O'Leary, it was serendipitous.

"Wotif come to town, gave that big melon to the community, then they come out and sponsored the biggest melon,” Mr O'Leary said.

"We haven't clarified yet but we think it's the biggest watermelon that's been recorded in Australia.”

The string of broken things continued on Saturday morning, when, in a case of Murphy's Law a water main broke, cutting supply to the whole of Chinchilla.

"It certainly made it a bit more interesting,” Mr O'Leary said.

"I'd like to commend the council and council workers for getting that job done as quickly as they did.

"It was a big job they had there and they got it back on in a pretty good time, I would've thought.

"It was the only bit of pipe that could shut down the whole town.

"If it was another pipe they would've been able to isolate it.”

But the hiccough didn't stop the melon festivities as arena events started, including the iconic melon skiing.

New mechanical ski pullers made all the difference, getting courageous participants through at a rate of up to two a minute.

An entirely volunteer-run event, Mr McNally said there were no plans to make the festival an annual affair.

"I think that's an attraction of the festival that it isn't every year - it gives people like myself a chance to catch our breath,” he said.

As it is, Mr O'Leary said the festival had "gone to the next level” and was on track to become the "most iconic festival probably anywhere nearly in Australia”.

"Who would've thought when we started 25 years ago we'd end up with what we've got,” he said.

"It's a credit to the community who had the vision to take it on originally and make it grow into what it is.”

And as for the crowd itself, it seems they were in excellent spirits - and behaviour.

"I talked to a policeman from Toowoomba and he was actually tired of people waving to him - he's not used to that,” Mr McNally said.

Chinchilla Constable Matt Truscott agreed, saying police were "quite impressed” with the behaviour.

"People were aware we had a lot of police in and around town, I think that helped,” he said.

During the festival, officers performed 100 random drug tests, 250 RBTs and only arrested four people for public nuisance offences. There was one sexual assault charge.


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