Seed Less: Mixed Emotions at the Rush Springs Watermelon Festival

If you’re an Oklahoman, chances are at least once in your life you’ve made the short jaunt to the town of Rush Springs for their world-famous Watermelon Festival; it’s an Okie rite-of-passage that I finally decided to take upon myself this past Saturday, conveniently as they celebrate their 75th year of seed-spitting wantonness.

Even in the 104-degree heat, hundreds (thousands?) of people made it out to not only sinfully covet some of the best, biggest, and ripest melons in the biz, but to also enjoy the wicked carnival atmosphere that I and my festival-loving pal Jodie walked right into; like a small section of the State Fair transplanted to Jeff Davis Park, the Music Express, the Sizzler and the Zipper—all real ride names, mind you—were in full swing, literally, for only a few tickets.

After a somewhat quick walkthrough of the non-watermelon games, non-watermelon food and disastrous non-watermelon ATM machines, we walked across the park to the area where the real Watermelon Festivities were happening, past the strange concrete pit that had numerous sticky-handed children drinking and splashing from a leaky pipe of water.

The reason for the celebration’s whole being, apparently, was the large sweltering shed that held all of this year’s prize-winning watermelons. Alongside gleaming pictures of the cult-like Watermelon Queens of days passed, the ground-sprung offerings included flavorful melons, shapely melons and, saving the best for last, obese melons and all their ribbons galore.

The line around the building was hilariously long, mostly filled with people using their phones to photograph their assorted babies and toddlers next to the larger watermelons, hopefully to use as a Christmas card later in the year, or, even possibly, as a delightfully adorable missing persons photo, just in case.

Walking along the festival’s inventive arts and craft section—lots of watermelon salsa—I began to notice ample use of the hateful word “Redskins” on many a wall, shirt and billboard. As I quickly learned, the Rush Springs high school mascot is this disgusting slur against Indigenous people, but even that was somewhat digestible until further on down the line, across from the Confederate flag and Trump stickers, was a vendor selling multi-feathered Native headdresses.

While my first instinct was to buy one for Flaming Lips frontman Wayne Coyne, instead I quietly left the whole scene, knowing full well that I am mostly powerless against an army of melon-high rednecks with various Pakistani-made blades in full reach. But, still, it added a bitter taste to the day’s events, one that I immediately needed to wash out with the whole reason I came to this damned festival in the first place: a large slice of watermelon.

As a couple with guitars warbled “Tequila Sunrise” in the pavilion, the line for watermelon slices was enjoyable short and excessively cheap—only $2, and then it’s free after 4 p.m. Paying my two bucks, I headed to a small metal gazebo that looked like a watermelon massacre had recently taken place; drippings covered the floor as sticky pools of organic ooze rested on the bar, the melon squirting in my direction as I plunged my fork deep inside.

Relatively sweet, I had a few bites of this renowned fruit from the “Watermelon Capital of the World,” and, to be honest, it does live up to every expectation I had about this town’s main food product. A little too large a slice for me, however, so I offered the rest of my melon to a little girl whose father was hogging most of hers. She gleefully accepted.

As we started back to the parking lot, I noticed a corn-on-the-cob vendor glumly stirring a large vat of boiling corn, sweat dripping off his brow as the Rush Springs sun beat down hard on him. I sure do hope that he’ll get himself a slice of cool watermelon before they’re all sold out, I thought to myself as I wiped black melon seeds off the front of my shirt and onto the ground.


Follow Louis on Twitter at @LouisFowler and Instagram at @louisfowler78.

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15 Responses

  1. Being facetious? That leaky water pipe is actually the main spring of the several around the park that give Rush Springs its name. Great water the last time I tried it.

  2. Jeff Davis Park??

    1. Named after an Oklahoma politician named Jeff Davis.

    2. Yeah, I know, I know…. But it’s not THAT Jeff Davis.

  3. “Redskins,” the park named after good ol’ Jefferson Davis, Confederate flags, Native American cultural appropriation… Rush Springs sound like a place that’s extremely politically incorrect, and damn proud of it!

    I noticed that Louis referred to the product of the world’s Watermelon Capital as “fruit.” By decree of the Oklahoma Legislature, watermelon is our State Vegetable. It fits. Rush Springs might as well be botanically incorrect as well as politically incorrect.

  4. It is not named after Jefferson Davis, instead of assuming you know and blabbing your mouth, do a little research. “Jeff Davis (Jefferson Lee Davis 3/9/1898 to 6/2/1960) Lived in Rush Springs and served as State Rep. for five terms from that district elected in 1950. His wife’s name was Alta Elizabeth McCulloch. Children Richard, Randall and Laura.”. Regarding the Redskin comment, we have many Native Americans that live in Rush Springs, in fact one of our coaches is native American. If you don’t understand how much work is put into this festival and all you want to do is bash the town I have easy solution, stay away!

    1. That’s like saying you know black people so it’s okay for you to use the n-word.

    2. Come on. It’s Louis Fowler, not Discover Oklahoma. His wonderful wit and satire is all fun and games until he’s talking about your town.

  5. Your food reviews are great and I enjoy reading them. Going to a town and using your status and position as a tool to castigate that entire town isn’t. I doubt any of the citizens had any choice what carnies showed up to sale their wares. I’ve seen swastikas, for sale, at our state fair. Enough of the political correctness. Put on your little plastic green Irish derby hat, sold at walmart, and quit being so thin skinned. BTW, I love the Washington redskins as well as Rush Springs. Yeah Greychin, do some research!!

  6. I am from Rush Springs, my family is Choctaw, my late grandfather is Morris McAdoo whom the large, sweltering shed holding all of the melons was named after. Mainly due to the fact that since the 70’s, he went to prepare the melons and get the exhibit ready so outsiders could actually come and enjoy it. It’s a crazy thought to ponder, I know. He did this every year until his death in 2016, bending over backwards and putting his Choctaw blood and sweat into it. Sorry your experience wasn’t the best, but for his sake I like to think some people enjoy it.

    Also, fun fact, our mascot used to be the melon heavers before the Redskins. Unfortunately, we had to change it due to protests and an uprising in watermelons who thought it was insensitive to just have them tossed around against their will, being massacred all over sticky picnic tables, all so others could enjoy them. We complied, and changed the mascot to Redskins. I’m sure we will be mandated to change it soon so I’m sorry you’re offended.

  7. I’m willing to bet I have more native blood that Luis, and I don’t get all offended at Redskin or seeing the crappy headdresses. It’s usually the 1/64 bloods that are the most “offended”.

    1. I am from rush springs and wanna say that we are verry proud of out festival, town, and mascot. The vendors that come get a spot and put up whatever they want and really dont care if they offend snowflakes like this. Redskins are warriors and proud of it we love the maskot because it represents strength and toughness, its not meant in any way to ridicule the natives, which a big percent of our population are, even if only by a fraction. Its not a racial slur, the people who get butthurt over things like that are just looking for attention and wanting people to feel bad for them its sad really.

  8. I’m from the small town of rush springs and there was no need for this article to be written in such a disrespectful manner for most of the people in rush springs kids I may add that festival and carnival is the one thing we look to going to at the end of the summer because most kids don’t do anything during the summer and when that carnival comes around all the kids want to go to see their friends that they haven’t seen for three months for most people it’s to let loose because they’ve been working all summer and have t got to do anything fun so I’m sorry for you bad experience but most people seem to like the watermelon festival.

    1. Welcome to The Really Lost Ogle! What you see is what you get.

  9. A human interst story about a well known family festival filled with Liberal Hatred comments. Nice.

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