Hope Watermelon Festival

Hope Watermelon Festival

Second weekend in August
Best known as the birthplace of U.S. President Bill Clinton, Hope, Ark., is also "Home of the World's Largest Watermelons" and hosts the only watermelon festival featuring giant watermelons.
They are indeed large. Hope watermelon growers have been competing to grow the biggest since the 1920s. In 1925, Hugh Laseter created a sensation with a record 136-pounder that was exhibited for a few days and then sent to President Calvin Coolidge. The watermelons kept getting bigger. The 1928 champion was 144 3 + 4 pounds and was sent to the Rexall Corp. in Boston, Mass., where it "created quite a bit of excitement," according to old accounts.
The first 200-pound melon was grown in 1979 by Ivan Bright and his son Lloyd; seeds from it went for $8 each. That melon broke a 44-year record held by O. D. Middlebrooks, who had grown a 195-pound melon. (It was sent to actor Dick Powell.) In 1985, Lloyd Bright's 10-year-old son Jason produced a 260-pound watermelon that was recorded in the 1992 Guinness Book of World Records . These melons attain their great size because of the quality of the soil, an early greenhouse start, and careful pruning. Hope farmers also grow average-size watermelons, weighing 30 to 40 pounds.
The Hope Watermelon Festival originated in 1926, lapsed with hard times, was revived in 1977, and has been held annually ever since with attendance at about 50,000. There has been nationwide television and press coverage because of the colossal melons. This is a festival of real down-home Americana: ice cream socials, a big fish fry, softball, a dog show, arm wrestling, arts and crafts booths, musical entertainment, antique car and engine shows, and hot air balloon rides.
The watermelon events include a watermelon toss, a melon-decorating competition, a melon-eating contest, a melon-seed-spitting contest, and a melon-judging and auction. While he was governor of Arkansas, Mr. Clinton visited the festival to compete in the Watermelon 5K Run.
CONTACTS:
Hope-Hempstead County Chamber of Commerce
101 W. 2nd St.
P.O. Box 250
Hope, AR 71802
870-777-3640; fax: 870-722-6154
www.hopechamberofcommerce.com
References in periodicals archive ?
Hope Watermelon Festival - August 9 - 11, Hope , Arkansas