Weigh, waddle, carve, color, spit and grease. Each year, the Tom Watson Watermelon Festival offers every activity imaginable that can involve a watermelon. And this year, they've thought of one more.
"We ordered a watermelon launcher, so we're hoping that we are going to shoot watermelons this year," said Michelle Zupan, the curator for the Watson-Brown Foundation, and organizer for the festival.
The fourth annual festival takes place from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m., Saturday, Aug. 4, at Hickory Hill. The day begins at 7:30 a.m. with the Watermelon Waddle. The two-mile walk/run starts in downtown Thomson at the Depot, traverses to Hickory Hill off of Tom Watson Way and returns to the Depot. Registration and check-in begins at 7 a.m. at the Depot. The entry fee is $10. Prizes will be awarded for different age categories, and a special prize is given for the best watermelon-inspired running attire. All waddlers will receive a t-shirt.
And the field is wide open for this year's growing contest. Last year's second place winner, George Coussons, has not been home to care for his garden because he is taking care of a sick relative, according to his wife. And Jesse McCorkle, who has won first place for the last two years, said a new problem has creeped up this year.
"The drought has caused a shortage of food for the deer, so they are eating my watermelon vines. I've had an extreme problem with deer this year, so I don't anticipate a three-peat," the Pea Ridge resident said.
Last year, Mr. McCorkle's 50-lb. entry beat the average by more than 7 lbs. Winners of the melon growing contest receive cash prizes. Only the Tom Watson variety melons are eligible for the contest.
Other contests throughout the day include a children's coloring contest, watermelon recipe contest, watermelon carving contest, seed spitting, eating, shot-put and a greased watermelon three-legged race.
"It's great to see people in the watermelon eating contest. It's a good chance for people to embarrass themselves," Ms. Zupan said. "I'm always a judge, because it wouldn't be fun for me because I'm a slow eater."
Live entertainment by the Carolina Blue Grass Boys begins at 11 a.m. while visitors can enjoy arts and crafts vendors, food vendors, historical and educational displays. And if you're hungry for more, there's all-you-can-eat watermelon. Last year, the Watson-Brown Foundation gave out more than 1,000 watermelons during the festival. And this year will be no different, according to organizers.
Admission is free. For more information or directions, visit the website at www.hickory-hill.org or call 706-595-8886 or 706-595-7777.