Ag center ready in time for Watermelon Festival

CHIPLEY ? The Washington County Agricultural Center will be opening to the public in the near future after being closed since Hurricane Sally in September 2020.  Flooding from the storm caused major damage to the facility which was a blessing in disguise according to County Administrator Jeff Massey. 

“From devastation came the ability to bring our ag center back better than ever,” said Massey. “We knew there was a lot of work that needed to be done and with the storm came the rainbow. We were able to do all the necessary work to repair what is essentially the heart of our county.” 

Borings led to the discovery of a sink hole under the building which was subsequently filled with concrete which stabilizes the structure for many years of use. Not only did the exterior get a face lift, the interior saw a brand new epoxy floor, lighting, roof, heating and air unit and many other amenities. 

The repairs were all covered by insurance with anything not covered being paid out of Hurricane Sally funds.  

Future plans are underway for an adding on to the building right at the front entrance, repairing the parking lot, and a landscaping overhaul. Grant funding sources are being sought to fund these projects. 

Massey says County Extension Director & 4-H Agent UF/IFAS Extension Washington County Julie Dillard and her team deserve the majority of the credit for all the work that has been put into getting the facility ready in time for the Panhandle Watermelon Festival activities. 

“Julie and her team have done a tremendous job in getting the ag center back in working order,” said Massey. “The task was quite a challenge and they rose above and beyond. The county appreciates them and all the hard work they have put into it.” 

The ag center has long been utilized for the Saturday portion of Washington CountyÂ’s signature festival, serving as the site for vendors, as well as the venue for the  musical guests and the traditional watermelon auction.

Performing at the ag center Saturday, June 26, as part of this yearÂ’s festival will be Nashville songwriters Wendell Mobley and Lee Thomas Miller.

Carol Kent Wyat contributed to this report.