Farms in Douglas County, Ore., have grown melons commercially since the early 1880’s. A photograph from 1886 shows horse-drawn wagons full of melons near Grants Pass waiting for shipment by rail. Even earlier, in August 1859, an itinerate preacher traveling by train from near present-day Dixonville to Ashland, Ore., noted in his journal, “The conductor gave me a watermelon.”
Production of watermelons and the famed “Pride of Dillard” cantaloupe reached a peak in the 1940’s and ‘50’s when annually more than 100,000 crates of cantaloupes and watermelons were shipped from Douglas County. However, high labor costs, harvesting innovations, and a few bad growing years pushed commercial melon production out of Western Oregon. Today only Brosi’s Sugartree Farm grows melons in the Winston-Dillard area. The Brosi family has produced fruits and vegetables since the 1880’s.
Winston-Dillard continues to celebrate its melon heritage with an annual festival. In 1968 the Lions Club initiated the first Melon Festival to support its work with the blind. Since then the Winston-Dillard Festival Association has sponsored the annual, three-day event.
This year’s Winston-Dillard Melon Festival will be held Sept. 18th through the 20th at Riverbend Park in Winston.
Sources: "1880’s - Fine Art Prints of Historical Photos." Old Oregon the Art of Historic Photos . Old Oregon, 2015. Web. 23 July 2015. http://www.oldoregonphotos.com/decade/1880’s.html?location=56; Andrews, Garrett, “Melon Festival honors Douglas County’s sweet, sticky past.” The News-Review 13 Sept.13 2014. [Roseburg OR]. Web. 4 July 15; Wilson, Eric. Snapshots Along the Umpqua, A history of Winston, Oregon and the greater Winston area. Winston, Ore. 2012. Self published; Smith, Eileen. “Pine Grove Community Church History.” Undated. Unpublished.