Triple-digit temperatures won't dry up this year's watermelon crop in the Rush Springs area, a legislator said Thursday.
Most of the watermelons were harvested before the onslaught of the extremely hot weather, said Rep. Joe Dorman, who brought about 30 watermelons to the state Capitol to promote next weekend's 68th Rush Springs Watermelon Festival.
Dry summer weather put a strain on the crop, but most watermelons fared well because of sufficient rains early in the growing season, said Dorman, D-Rush Springs.
This year's crop is much better than a year ago, when triple-digit temperatures and dry weather plagued the area about a month earlier and stymied growth.
“The drought really hit us bad last year,” Dorman said. “This year, it has been a little bit drier and the melons are a little bit smaller than normal, but the quality has been fantastic. The smaller melons are a little bit sweeter. It's just been great — everywhere we've gone so far, people have been very pleased with the quality of the melons.”
Dorman kept busy for more than an hour slicing melons for 2012 Watermelon Queen May'zey Brown to serve to Capitol workers and officials.
The watermelon festival, sponsored by the Rush Springs Lions Club, is a major event for Rush Springs, said Merlene Rust, a Lions Club member and former watermelon grower.
Growers from a 30-mile radius are eligible to enter the various contests, Rust said.
Growers raise about seven kinds of watermelons.
The biggest watermelon was several years ago, with the prizewinner coming in at about 140 pounds, Rust said.
“This year they won't be that big,” she said.
Dorman, who is chairman this year, said the daylong festival is set for Aug. 11.
Most festivities begin at 9 a.m. at Jeff Davis Park after a 5k run that starts at 7:30 a.m.
A seed-spitting contest is at noon.
Brown will be coronated watermelon queen at 7 p.m.
Free watermelon slices will be served after 4 p.m.; before that, they cost $1 per slice.
The festival attracts about 30,000 people to Rush Springs, a city of about 1,500, Dorman said.
About 50,000 pounds of melon are served.
Rust said growing watermelons is hard work, and the number of growers has decreased in recent years.
She and her husband stopped growing melons after their children left home.
“It's not something you can harvest with equipment,” Rust said. “It takes a lot of labor.”
“There is no machine that can pick these,” Dorman said. “This is all hands-on, labor-intensive work. You have to have the workforce and you have to be able to pay those people to go out and work.”
TO LEARN MORE
For more information about the 68th Rush Springs Watermelon Festival, go to www.