In spite of the drought, the trailing vine is the same, as is the hard, green rind and sweet, watery red pulp. The festival, however, will have a few changes.
The fifth annual Tom Watson Watermelon Festival will be Saturday at Hickory Hill in Thomson.
Hundreds of people flock to the festival each year to enjoy all the free watermelon they can eat and activities such as seed-spitting and eating contests, greased watermelon three-legged race, watermelon shot-put and sling-shot.
"We have an entire year to think of weird things to do with watermelons," said Michelle Zupan, the curator for Hickory Hill and the Watson-Brown Foundation.
This year, Zupan said there will be no two-mile run, or "watermelon waddle," to kick off the festival. Also eliminated are the recipe and carving contests.
"Our numbers have been dropping off, and we think it has something to do with jogging in August," Ms. Zupan said. "And we just haven't had the entries for recipes and carving. So it will just be growing, eating, spitting, that kind of thing."
But a new twist on this year's festival is the addition of a kids' zone for children younger than 8 years old. Activities in the kids' zone include watermelon toss across, watermelon bowling and dress-a-watermelon competition.
"It's kind of like Mr. Potato Head," Zupan said of the competition. "In the kids' zone, the children will have their own set of games and contests specially designed for younger kids."
The festival will feature about 20 vendors offering everything from fried Oreos to stained glass and face painting, Zupan said.
Entertainment will be provided by the Bluegrass Sound Band and radio station Kicks 99. The 2008 Georgia Watermelon Queen, Hannah Jones, of Americus, also will be present.
The Watson-Brown Foundation grows several thousand watermelons each year for festival attendees to enjoy while there, then take one home to enjoy later.
The festival is at Hickory Hill, 502 Hickory Hill Drive, off of Tom Watson Way, in Thomson. For information, call (706) 595-8886 or (706) 595-7777. For a map and directions, go to www.hickory-hill.org.
Admission to the festival is free. The festival begins at 9 a.m. Saturday and ends at 3 p.m. Contest winners will be announced at 3 p.m., as well as the winner of the J. Todd Tucker Fishing raffle sponsored by the Thomson-McDuffie Convention and Visitors Bureau. For information on the raffle, call the Thomson CVB at (706) 597-1000, or visit www.thomson-mcduffie.net.
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