Published on 09/12/18

Sumter County 4-H'er wins state watermelon-growing competition

By Sage Barnard

With a watermelon weighing in at 168.6 pounds, John Gorton of Sumter County won the Georgia 4-H 2018 Watermelon Growing Contest.

Gorton’s melon is around six times the weight of your average watermelon. 

The Georgia Watermelon Association and the Georgia Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association sponsored the contest in their continuous support of the Georgia 4-H program.

Gorton was one of 24 competitors from throughout the state attempting to grow the largest watermelon.

The second and third place winners were J.T. Clarke of Meriwether County and Jordan Smothers of Walton County, with watermelons that weighed 122 pounds and 115.2 pounds, respectively. Gorton, Clarke and Smothers will all receive a cash prize and certificates for the time and effort they spent tending to their plants.

None of the three finalists participated in 2017’s competition. 

Some other notable contenders in the field this year were Hayleigh Clarke of Meriwether County who grew a 110-pound watermelon, Jonathan Philips of Meriwether County who grew a 108-pound watermelon, Aiden Connell of Appling County who grew an 81-pound watermelon and Emily White of Appling County who grew a 54-pound watermelon.

Growing watermelons teaches kids responsibility and the importance of dedicating themselves to making something great, said Michael Rabalais, 4-H program specialist. Georgia 4-H leaders say projects like teach 4-H’ers problem-solving skills and how to work independently with confidence.

“Georgia 4-H has deep roots in agriculture, and I think contests like the 4-H Watermelon Growing Contest are important because they remind 4-H’ers that food doesn’t come from a bag or a factory or a cafeteria, but from seeds and earth and hard work,” Rabalais said. “I hope our participants were able to expand their knowledge and curiosity about agriculture.”

To learn more about the Georgia 4-H Watermelon Growing Contest, contact Rabalais at 706-542-1165 or visit the Georgia 4-H Watermelon Growing Contest website at

Sage Barnard is a student writer for the UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences and UGA Cooperative Extension.

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