Watermelon contest win adds to big Fourth of July

By for CAES News

By Dan Rahn
University of Georgia

Independence Day has always been big for Tyler Glover. And this year, the 103.5-pound watermelon he grew for the inaugural 4-H Giant Watermelon Growing Contest has made it even bigger.

"He'll be 12 on July Fourth," said Tyler's mom, Allison Glover of Cairo, Ga. "We had his birthday party (Thursday), so he's already saying he's 12. But he was born on the Fourth of July."

Who better to win the first statewide 4-H watermelon contest than an all-American boy born on the Fourth of July?

"I couldn't have orchestrated it that well," said Jeff Buckley, a University of Georgia 4-H program coordinator. 4-H is the UGA Cooperative Extension youth development program and has nearly 200,000 members statewide.

Buckley has run the Georgia 4-H Giant Pumpkin Growing Contest since 1999 and recognized that the longstanding contest favored 4-H'ers in north Georgia. "Pumpkins grow better in north Georgia," he said.

Something for south Georgia

"We wanted to come up with something that would give 4-H'ers in south Georgia a better chance to compete," Buckley said. "Ken Lewis (Southwest Extension District program development coordinator) suggested a watermelon growing contest. Kevin Phillips (UGA Extension coordinator in Wilcox County) put together some tips on growing melons."

Buckley said the Georgia Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association and the Georgia Watermelon Association agreed to sponsor the contest. And the first year's participation was strong.

Glover was the clear winner with his whopper, a Carolina Cross watermelon, to claim the $100 first-place award. Harlee Powell of Crisp County took the second-place $50 with a 70-pound Carolina Cross. And Clayton Smith, also of Crisp County, was third and won $25 with a 59-pound Cobb watermelon.

The winners will be recognized during the Watermelon Days Festival in Cordele, Ga., July 8. All of the participants will get T-shirts.

The winner

Glover grew his prizewinning melon in his backyard garden with "a lot of spraying for bugs and diseases, a lot of fertilizer and a lot of cow manure," he said. "My dad (Jeff) gave me some good advice. He grows good pumpkins every year."

He picked off some of the watermelons that he thought might be diseased. Thinning the melons allowed the vine to channel more of its energy into the prizewinner, too. "He had a lot of fun watching that watermelon grow," his mom said. "We all did."

A seventh-grade student at Shiver Elementary School in Cairo, Glover said winning the watermelon contest was "awesome. I just thought there are a lot of people in the state who could grow a bigger one," he said. "I didn't think I would win it."

But he did. Makes for a happy Fourth of July story, doesn't it?

(Dan Rahn is a news editor with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.)

Dan Rahn is a news editor with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.