Fair Contest Participants Go to Seed

Jack Bonzani, 9, of Hermiston, spits a watermelon seed during the Umatilla County Fair watermelon seed spitting contest on Saturday.

Spitting in public may be forbidden in etiquette books, but Eastern Oregon has one exception to the rule: watermelon seed spitting. The Umatilla County Fair invited one and all to the Coke Stage on Saturday for the annual contest and samplings of Hermiston watermelons.

A half hour before the competition, organizers lined up the playing field, placing red tape to mark each fi-e foot mark along the concrete. They cut watermelon and dropped chunks into plastic cups – each one designated for a competitor to taste the fruit and save the seeds.

More than 30 competitors of all ages took the challenge on Saturday afternoon to compete in four categories: children 7 and younger; youth 8 to 15; women’s; and men’s.

Fair Seed Contest
Volunteers hand out leftover watermelon after the watermelon seed-spitting contest on Saturday.
The longest spit for the day came courtesy of Allen Waggoner of Pilot Rock. Waggoner’s seed flew and rolled 39 feet and 2 inches – almost off the 40-foot playing space.

“It was fun to participate, and it’s great to be involved in the fair,” Waggoner said. “Back in Illionois where I grew up, we ate a lot of watermelon, so maybe that gave me an advantage.”

Waggoner beat out Pendleton’s Don Legore by a mere two inches to take the title and the prizes, which included a County Fair T-Shirt and a Hermiston watermelon.

In the women’s division, the watermelon went to Angela Bonzani, of Hermiston, with a distance of 25 feet 9 inches, and Pendleton’s Matthew Demianew, 14, won the 8-to-15-year-old division with a distance of 33 feet 11 inches.

Linkin Zamudio, age 6, of Hermiston, took the children’s title with 24 feet 2 inches. Holding his prize ribbon, the 6-year-old smiled and nodded when asked if he had fun. The best prize of all for Linkin was beating his older brother, who also competed.