Watermelon lovers hone seed-spitting techniques at festival

Published 12:00 am Sunday, July 1, 2001

When it comes to the sport of spitting watermelon seeds, the best technique is often the simplest.

That’s according to Anthony Allen, 10, one of the winners of a seed-spitting contest held as part of Saturday’s Watermelon Festival at the Main Street Marketplace.

&uot;All you’ve got to do is just blow real hard,&uot; Allen said after retrieving the McDonald’s coupons and watermelon-flavored bubble gum that were his prize. Getting a running start and practicing all morning didn’t hurt either, he said.

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The first-place winner in a younger age category, 8-year-old Olivia Brown, was more shy about revealing her secret but would say that she practiced with five slices before the contest.

Onlooker Daniel Dillard helped coach some contestants, including one who was missing a front tooth. &uot;I told her to hold it there and then zing it out like a BB gun,&uot;&160;Dillard said.

The best prize of all seemed to be the watermelon slices themselves. Even before contestants were officially lined up, most couldn’t resist nibbling on a corner of melon.

The festival’s other main event was a watermelon carving contest. As of 1:30 p.m., a peacock made from melons and berries, a melon basket with zig-zag edges and an elaborate centerpiece dubbed &uot;Melon Magnificent&uot; were already entered.

But Abner Cage of Vidalia said the watermelon seed spitting contest was what he came to see.

&uot;They’re doing fine so far,&uot; Cage said, eyeing the contestants. He also came to have a catfish dinner – and a slice of watermelon. His wife, Evelina Cage, had already started on her slice.

Dillard came to watch the contest and to sample some of the other produce the marketplace offers, too. &uot;The vendor over there has tomatoes so big you can cover a piece of bread with just one slice,&uot; he said.

But perhaps the best thing about Saturday’s event – and the other fruit-themed festivals the marketplace has lined up this summer – is that they bring more people downtown, he said.

That is the point of such events, said event co-organizer Regina Charboneau.

&uot;This is the heart of the city,&uot; Charboneau said. &uot;We have to keep Main Street alive.&uot;