History of Willy-Nilly: Watermelon vs. Pumpkin War

History of Willy-Nilly: Watermelon vs. Pumpkin War

Amid the quirky village of Willy-Nilly lies a rich history that is brought forward from season to season, resulting in some of the festival’s greatest traditions. One of the most noticeable and memorable is that of the Watermelon vs. Pumpkin War, a highly contested battle between the sweet fruits of summer and the hearty gourds of winter for true vegetative supremacy.


Long ago, when your grandfather’s grandfather’s grandfather walked the streets of our dear Willy-Nilly on the Wash, a great conflict arose.  As autumn began to leave a crispness in the air, there were some who cried out for a return to the warmth of seasons past.  “Watermelon!” they shouted, the juicy fruit their sweet bastion of summertime.  Against this green striped produce came a new foe, those who embraced the cooler days and shorter nights.  “Pumpkin!” they called, the orange’d gourds upon which they had built their autumnal firmament.

As the days passed, contentions rose.  Both fruit and gourd were found shattered in the streets, and what had begun as a mere disagreement between the seasons soon broke out into an all-out war.  There was much wailing and gnashing of teeth as the casualties were heavy on either side.  Hostilities finally came to a peak on a day very near the equinox, upon the land which now hosts our chess board.

The winner of this combat has been lost to Willy-Nilly history immemorial, but each year we stop and pay homage to those who perished in the seedy clash with a reenactment of their last day.


For one weekend every season, the people of Willy-Nilly get together to commemorate the age-old feud between warm summer and temperate fall. For the run of ORF 21, that will be the weekend of Feast of Fools, (October 23rd – 24th) during which time the competition will commence. Each side will have its own ‘Food Court’ with duly elected Kings & Queens at their head. They are referred to as royalty (though Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth remains above the fray), and may have an entire ensemble along with them. Keep an eye out during the parade for the most decorated of the villagers and see if you can spot the respective Gourded Royals.

During the competition, it will be up to the opposing sides to ‘claim’ territory in the name of Pumpkin or Watermelon. Don’t be surprised to find yourself allied to either side with a bit of orange or green ribbon or fabric tassel. At the same time, feel free to proclaim your allegiance for yourself! Many guests and playtrons will participate by arriving dressed in the respective colors of their favorite side.

Pumpkin – orange, brown, dark green
Watermelon – bright green, pink, red

The outcome of the original conflict is a subject of much debate, so during the weekend’s festivities, you can go and see a ‘reenactment’ of the original WP War on the Chess Field at 2:00 pm. Get there a little early and plan to cheer on your side as you watch the fantastic history of Willy-Nilly play out.