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'Jeopardy' question promotes the spitting image of Thomson

Approximately 9 million viewers saw the name "Thomson, Ga." on their television screens Friday. And one young man earned $600.

Thomson's Tom Watson Watermelon Festival was the subject of a question in the Jeopardy! Teen Tournament airing this week on CBS.

The popular quiz show uses a unique format in which the contestants are given clues, or answers, and their responses must be stated in the form of a question. The clues are categorized and increase in levels of difficulty.

The $600 clue that put Thomson in living rooms across the nation was in an "annual events" category -- "Thomson, Georgia's festival celebrating this green gourd includes a seed-spitting contest."

And even though he's not from Thomson, Gabe Orlet of Belleville, Ill., gave the correct response.

In fact, Gabe answered four of the five clues correctly in that category, won that particular Jeopardy! round and went on to earn a spot in the semi-finals being aired through Friday of this week.

Watson-Brown Curator Michelle Zupan, who organizes the annual watermelon festival, said she learned of the clue's topic from a Thomson Middle School teacher, who saw it and posted it on a Watson-Brown Facebook page. Ms. Zupan said she has no idea how the clue appeared on the game show.

"But we're thrilled," she said. "It's just one of those goofy things. Of all things, we're on there for seed-spitting. I guess if we have to put Thomson on the map for something, it's not the worst thing."

Jeopardy! debuted in 1984 and is the No. 2 series in syndication, averaging 9 million daily viewers, according to the show's Web site. The quiz show features trivia in topics such as history, literature, the arts, pop culture, science and sports.

Ms. Zupan said it's ironic that the staff of the Watson-Brown Foundation uses Jeopardy! games regularly in two of their programs. Each summer, a handmade game board is used during the archeology summer camp program at the end of the week, giving the campers a chance to test their knowledge of what they learned. The game board also is used to reinforce historic preservation concepts with the foundation's Junior Board, which studies the subject and awards grants to preserve history.

"So, we've been doing it for years with just a handmade Jeopardy! board. And now it's kind of funny that we ended up there. But, it's for something that I never would have predicted," Ms. Zupan said with a laugh.

She doesn't know who submitted the clue to the show, but Ms. Zupan said she's hoping whoever did will "own up to it," so she can thank them.

The Watson-Brown Foundation, located on Tom Watson Way in Thomson, seeks to improve education in the South by funding schools and students and preserving history. The foundation maintains three historic homes in Thomson, and gardens, which are available for tours, field trips for students and workshops for teachers.

The annual Tom Watson Watermelon Festival celebrates the history of Georgia's agriculture and one of the foundation's namesakes, Thomas E. Watson, for whom a watermelon variety is named.

Web posted on Thursday, November 12, 2009

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