Fifty-Eight Years of Thumpin’: Luling, TX, Part 3

Watermelons have been associated with Luling since the 1950s, when truck farming began to take off in the area.

Entering Luling from Interstate 10, you’ll notice the world’s largest watermelon rising up 154 feet from a melon patch. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In 1953, Luling residents held the first Watermelon Thump, a festival featuring live music and a seed spitting competition (ready to break the 70-foot distance barrier any day now). There aren’t any points for manners in these events, but the judges do impose a penalty if a seed goes too far out of bounds toward spectators.

Special children’s contests and a team-spitting contest also take place.

Spectators need to stay alert during the seed spitting contests, especially the under age 8 category, lest they get splattered with flying watermelon.

This popular event was introduced in 1971. The watermelon seed spit record of 68 feet 9 1/8 inches was set in 1989 by Lee Wheelis and is recorded in the Guiness Book of Records.

Local farmers roll out their super-sized black diamond watermelons at the Championship Melon auction where 50 pounders are not uncommon—winners have been known to plump up to over 80 pounds. They’re still trying to grow that 100-pound watermelon!

Other highlights of the four-day celebration, which is always held the last full weekend in June, include the Watermelon Thump Queen’s coronation, parade with floats promoting other Texas festivals, carnival, children’s entertainment, street dances, and car show. Live music, a beer garden, arts and crafts booths, and food booths remain on tap all weekend.

The earliest local grown watermelons in Texas begin to ripen after the first week in June, so The Thump is a harvest festival of sorts, marking the availability of ripe watermelons.

But why would you thump a watermelon?

Watermelons have been associated with Luling since the 1950s, when truck farming began to take off in the area. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

To find out if a melon is ripe enough to eat, many people like to use the thump test. That, of course, is how the festival got its name.

Basically, you test the ripeness of a melon by flicking the husk with your index finger. If you get a somewhat hollow sound from the melon, it’s ripe.

True thump experts say that a perfectly ripe watermelon will ‘thump’ and the thump will be about a b -flat note. Although a lot of people rely on that method, if you’re like me, I can’t tell a b-flat from a hole in the ground.

Look the watermelon over, choose a firm, symmetrical one that is free of bruises, cuts, and dents. Lift it up and turn it over. The underside of the watermelon should have a creamy, yellow spot—called the ground spot—from where it sat on the ground and ripened in the hot Texas sun.

Make plans now to attend the 58th Annual Luling Watermelon Thump, June 23-26, 2011.

What is a watermelon?

Watermelon is in the same family as cucumbers, squash, and pumpkins.

Watermelon is 92% water and 8% sugar. It is rich in lypocene, an antioxidant that gives it its characteristic red color. It’s fat free and contains Vitamin A, C, and a lot of other good things to eat!

Experience life in old Luling at Zedler Mill Park and Cotton Gin—a turn of the century Cotton Gin—on the banks of the beautiful San Marcos River. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Watermelons have higher lycopene content than tomatoes! During the past several years there has been considerable media attention on tomatoes because they contain Lycopene. Lycopene has antioxidant properties and has been claimed to promote a healthy heart and to reduce the risk of cancer. Watermelons contain more lycopene than tomatoes.

Watermelon Fruit or Vegetable?

No matter which way you slice it, a watermelon is a vegetable—and it’s a fruit! It is both!

How awesome is that! You can eat watermelon and get a serving of your daily supply of vegetables!

In North America, most of us use watermelon as a fruit. We slice it, dice it, and scoop it into balls. We put it in fruit salad, we eat it as dessert, and we make fruity drinks out of it.

Other regions of the world often treat watermelon like a vegetable. The entire watermelon is edible even the rind. In the orient all parts of the watermelon are stir-fried, stewed, and pickled. In Russia, pickled watermelon rind is fairly common.

Worth Pondering…

When I was a kid on the farm after the milking came the process of skimming the cream. The cream which rose to the top of the heavy crock in which the milk was stored, was reserved for the treats of our frugal lifestyle: rich yellow butter, whipped cream for our desserts, and that rarer treat, tasty homemade ice cream. As I’m sitting in the comfort of my motorhome, the comparison of “skimming the cream” to extracting the best from life comes to mind. To us, RVing offers the cream of life; it is the “treat” that adds zest and flavor to living.

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