One Tiny Arkansas Town Has a Festival for its Giant Watermelons
The Hope Watermelon Festival is celebrating its 43rd year.
The lightweight town of Hope, Arkansas, knows how to grow scale-tipping watermelons. Some attribute it to the soil, and others to the skill of its farmers, but no one can argue that Hope is home to the South’s most iconic watermelons.
At the annual Hope Watermelon Festival, growers gather to show off their prized 200-pounders and revelers compete to see who can spit seeds or toss a melon farthest. Those who would rather not exert themselves in the August heat can sit back and enjoy chilled, sweet slices.
WATCH: Watermelon Salad
The festival actually started almost 100 years ago, when area farmers started a concentrated effort to sell their produce to train passengers passing through the town not far from the Texas and Louisiana borders. According to festival officials, nearly 20,000 people would come to Hope in those days wanting to see the massive melons. They even held a Watermelon Queen pageant and parade. But The Great Depression brought hard economic times to the town and with it, the end of the Watermelon Festival.
But in 1977, Hope decided to reinstate the Watermelon Festival shortly after its centennial celebration, and once again it brings thousands to town to celebrate, almost quintupling its population of nearly 10,000 for the weekend.
In addition to the Watermelon Queen crowning and seed spitting, the festival also has a singing competition, aptly named “Watermelon Idol,” a 5K race, a car show, a bag toss competition along with catfish fries held by local clubs.
If you can’t make it to the Hope Watermelon Festival this year, use our favorite watermelon recipes to make your own backyard version.