Time for the Hope Watermelon Festival!

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1925 - John S. Gibson, Originator of Hope's First Watermelon Growing Contest - Hugh Laseter, Mr. Gibson, and Edgar Laseter are shown here with the large watermelons of 1925. Seeds from the 136-pound winning watermelon were returned by President Coolidge to the grower, Hugh Laseter. The contest became a city-wide event the following year with a watermelon festival, parade, and growing contest.

Summer is a chance to savor a sweet (and big) slice of watermelon. The state’s largest watermelons are celebrated each August at the Hope Watermelon Festival in Hope. The event includes ice-cold watermelons sold by the slice, watermelon weigh-ins, and watermelon eating and seed spitting contests.

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Watermelons have long been a calling card for the city. The festival itself dates back to the mid-1920s when the city staged a one-day annual festival. During these early events, citizens served watermelon to passengers on the many trains that stopped in this small, southwest Arkansas community.

Hope does indeed lay claim to the largest watermelon in the world. In spring 2006, the Guinness Book of World Records certified Arkansas native Lloyd Bright’s 268.8 pound melon (grown on a farm east of town) as the world’s largest!

1927 - Entry in the 1927 Parade. Mr. Lowthorp created the Hope market for giant watermelons through business and railroad convention contacts in the off-season. These men of Rocky Mound and Shover Springs supplied him with the giants for his sales. The group included four men who grew world record giant watermelons. Arthur Powell grew the winning melon for 1927 in the Rocky Mound community. Photo Courtesy of the Hope Star