Where Size Matters

Summer's favorite fruit is celebrated—and world records are set—at the annual watermelon festival in Hope, Arkansas.

James Oseland

For some gardeners and farmers, big is never big enough. That seems to hold especially true in Hope, Arkansas, the self-proclaimed Giant Watermelon Capital of the World. In 1917, a local store owner began offering cash prizes for the largest fruits and vegetables that locals could haul from their fields or gardens. In 1925, two brothers, Hugh and Edgar Laseter, established the first watermelon dynasty in Hope, setting the bar high with a 136-pound melon; they went on to take first prize in the watermelon category two more times. Today, the Hope Watermelon Festival is a four-day affair held every August. Aside from the watermelon judging, events include seed-spitting competitions and a watermelon-eating contest. The current record—a Guinness World Record, to be precise—stands at 268.8 pounds, for a specimen submitted by a retired school administrator named Lloyd Bright in 2005.