Like the melons themselves, the 2006 Tom Watson Watermelon Festival will be bigger and better than ever, organizers say.
The festival, which is being sponsored by the Watson-Brown Foundation, will take place Saturday. The day begins with the Watermelon Waddle at the Depot in downtown Thomson at 7:30 a.m. To register for the two-mile run/walk, call (706) 595-8886.
The remainder of the fun starts at 9 a.m. on the grounds of Hickory Hill, the home of Sen. Thomas E. Watson, at 502 Hickory Hill Drive, in Thomson. The big events of the day include:
- Tom Watson watermelon growing contest. Event organizer Michelle Zupan said the foundation has given away more than 100 packets of seeds this year.
"They do take a lot of TLC," Zupan said. "They are some of the largest watermelons around in terms of weight and size. They consistently win blue ribbons at county fairs."
The winner of the contest at the festival won't take home a blue ribbon. Instead, it will be green - $300 cash to the largest Tom Watson variety watermelon.
- Watermelon recipe contest. Entrants should bring completed dishes along with a typed copy of their recipes. Zupan said the recipe can be in any category from beverages to desserts.
"We have judges who will stand there with spoons at the ready," she said.
- Watermelon-carving contest. This is a new event, divided into an adult category and a child's category. Entrants should bring a watermelon that they have carved in any way they choose.
"It's the same thing as carving a pumpkin, except you don't have to scoop the guts out unless you want to," Zupan said.
- Watermelon seed-spitting contest. Zupan said "just show up, sign up and spit."
- Greased watermelon three-legged race. This event is for children. Entrants will be paired and tied together; they will carry a melon that has been covered in baby oil through a course.
- Watermelon shot put. This event is for adults. Entrants will toss watermelons that are slightly larger than grapefruit, but don't weigh as much as a shot.
"This is just like the Olympic event," Zupan said. "We are hoping the USOC will smile favorably on our idea."
- A variety of vendors, including food, arts and crafts, and education. The U.S. Army Signal Corps Museum will be present; the Savannah River Ecology Lab will have snakes, turtles and alligators; the Morris Museum of Art will be represented; and there will be "a bunch of Living History folks coming from North Augusta," Zupan said.
The educational displays also will feature entertainment. Zupan said there will be a re-enactor who portrays an antebellum slave.
"She does a wonderful job," she said.
In addition, the National Wild Turkey calling champion will come from Jonesboro, S.C., to strut his stuff.
- Musical entertainment. Skyla Spencer will open at 2:30 p.m., followed by Thomson's Crosstie Walkers.
"We're hoping that people will bring their lawn chairs out and sit back and enjoy a cold drink and maybe some watermelon, and listen to the music in the afternoon," Zupan said.
The festival is free, and ends at 6 p.m. For information, log on to www.hickory-hill.org or call (706) 595-8886 or (706) 595-7777.
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