PARDEEVILLE — An iconic post-Labor Day event will return Saturday in Pardeeville. Here’s what you need to know about the Watermelon Festival.
How many Watermelon Festivals have been held?
The event — officially the United States Watermelon Speed-Eating and Seed Spitting Championships — will be held for the 51st time this year.
Who can compete?
Anybody may. Prospective seed-spitting and speed-eating competitors are asked to assemble near the basketball court at noon to prepare for a 12:30 p.m. start time.
There are a couple of changes this year, according to planner Mark Taylor. They stem from the November installation of the “Dream Court,” an improved surface for one of the two basketball courts. To protect that surface, the speed-eating competition will be held outside the basketball court area. The seed-spitting will still be inside the court area, but the trajectory will be diagonal, to minimize the likelihood of seeds landing on the court, while still giving spitters sufficient space to aim for breaking the men’s individual spitting record of 61 feet, 3 inches, set by Clark Hodgson in 1988.
But, if you’d rather carve watermelon than eat it or expectorate its seeds, you can compete in that, too.
New this year is a professional division for the watermelon carving contest.
Last year, a few professional fruit and vegetable carvers showed up — people who, according to Taylor, typically craft edible centerpieces for a living.
To accommodate them, while giving amateurs a chance to shine, there will be a separate division for professionals — who will be required to bring their own tools, and who will be allowed to use just one melon in their creations. Other divisions are for youngsters 11 and younger, carvers age 12 to 17 and adult carvers 18 and older.
Will there be watermelon to eat?
All the watermelon anyone can eat will be provided free of charge. Taylor said Alsum’s Produce, based near Friesland, will again provide the melons, but it’s not likely they’ll be locally grown. In the recent past, the melons have come from Southern states like Georgia.
In the event the melons don’t have seeds of the proper size and aerodynamic shape for spitting, Taylor said a volunteer will be dispatched to Pease Fresh Produce in Wyocena for melons to be used just for seed-spitting.
Is there anything else to eat?
Yes. There’s a concession stand, with other refreshments for sale. Taylor noted that the Pardeeville Lions Club has recruited about 30 volunteers from its ranks not only to operate the concession stand, but also for setup, cleanup and other tasks.
Is there something for people of all ages?
Yes. For children, the baseball field will be given over to carnival games, as well as a bounce house, and the 11:30 a.m. hay dive. At 10:30 a.m., there will be a performance in Shelter No. 3 by the Magic of Isaiah.
One kids’ attraction is new to the Watermelon Festival, but familiar to people who have attended Moto-Static when it was held in Chandler Park. The Cross Plains Lions Club will bring their kiddie train ride to the Watermelon Festival.
A new attraction, for adults and youngsters, is a photo booth.
Vendors will set up booths offering arts, crafts, gifts and products throughout the park.