According to the National Watermelon Promotion Board, the United States ranks fourth in the world for watermelon production with 44 states growing the melons. The fruit is thought to have originated in Africa more than 5,000 years ago. Because of the popularity of the fruit and its association with the summer seasons, many states offer watermelon festivals to celebrate it.
The watermelon season is primarily during the summer months. Watermelons are often a staple for picnics and summer family get-togethers. The actual time of harvest varies depending on the location, with early-summer harvests happening in the south and harvests during the later summer months in the cooler northern states. Because of the timing for the watermelon season, a majority of watermelon festivals take place during the summer months in North America. Some festivals do take place as early as May and as late as the end of September.
Because watermelon season happens earlier in the south, the festivals typically begin in the southern states beginning in late May. As the summer progresses, the festivals work their way north. States such as Florida, Texas, Georgia, South Carolina and California are among the first states to hold their festivals. Alabama, Mississippi, North Carolina and Louisiana also feature festivals in the south. As the festivals move north, the Midwest states of Iowa, Wisconsin, Indiana and Oklahoma also offer festivals. Colorado and Utah are among some of the later states to hold watermelon festivals because of the cooler climates.
Even though watermelon is the main focus of these festivals, other food is often offered to patrons. Some of the festivals offer typical festival food, such as burgers, hot dogs, chips and a variety of drinks. However, if you want to experience different watermelon dishes, this type of festival is the place to go. In addition to eating watermelon as it is, patrons can find desserts, drinks, side dishes and even entrees that feature watermelon.
Like other types of festivals, a watermelon festival features activities that are related to the large fruit. Seed-spitting and speed-eating contests are common among many of the watermelon festivals across the country. Other activities are less widespread. Some festivals offer growing contests, auctions, parades, watermelon decorating and watermelon hunts. Watermelon Olympics are also held at some of the festivals. Events are all watermelon-themed, such as watermelon tosses. Some of the festivals also hold pageants and crown a watermelon queen.
- Thinkstock/Comstock/Getty Images