Hermiston Downtown District Celebrates Another Melon Fest

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Attendees of the 2023 Melon Fest in downtown Hermiston were able to take part in costume contests, bathtub races, seed-spitting contests and more on Saturday, Aug. 19. (Photo by Beau Glynn/Hermiston Herald)

The green rinds and red fruit of the famous Hermiston watermelon were the focus of Melon Fest 2023, held Saturday, Aug. 19, on Main and Festivals streets, drawing crowds downtown for melon-centric fun.

Hermiston Downtown District Board Member Judy Currin-Pederson, who also runs Lucky Endz Gifts at 239 E. Main St., said the event has taken place annually since 2019, save for one year due to COVID-19.

Attendees gathered Saturday in their best watermelon-themed fineries, bedecked in reds and greens to compete in the festival’s costume contests, one of the day’s many activities. Participants vied for the chance to win cash prizes. The contest, sponsored by Bennett Christianson and Nancy Walchli of Christianson Realty Group, awarded $300, $200 and $100 to first, second and third place, respectively.

The day’s agenda also included a watermelon seed-spitting contest and the festival’s first-ever watermelon-eating contest. Split into age groups (to ensure a fair competition, Currin-Pederson said), participants raced to finish their slices.

Melon Fest also featured watermelon bathtub races. The races featured 12 teams of three people bobbing and weaving through an obstacle course of cones while trying to not tip over a bathtub filled with water.

The team member inside the tub was tasked with sabotaging other competitors by throwing water in their opponents’ paths.

After 10 rounds, two teams, PDX Security and PDX East, went head-to-head in the finals. PDX East members Manny Munoz, Tyler Robert and Stephon McCray took the lead initially but fell behind toward the middle, giving PDX Security’s Ryan Young, Marvin Hamilton and Gracie Lee Siler the opening they needed to finish in victory.

PDX Security received a trophy and watermelon gift bag as prizes. The other contestants walked away soaked but smiling, with some declaring they’d win next year.

Entertainers also graced the Melon Fest stage between activities throughout the day. Corey Cooley and Joe Lindsay, with special guest Andrew Lindsay, made multiple appearances. Other sources of entertainment included painting sessions, a petting zoo provided by the Hermiston FFA and music by KOHU-AM 1360. A street full of vendors also stretched along multiple blocks of Main Street, offering an assortment of goods.

Throughout the entire event, volunteers walked through the crowds, offering free slices of watermelon, which, according to Currin-Pederson, were supplied by local farms.

“Hermiston watermelons are famous,” she said. “We have a great climate for them and we have good soil.”

She added that the festival came together through a group effort.

“It’s really backed by the city of Hermiston and the Chamber of Commerce, but we have other community members that have supported this event,” she said.

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