Watermelon Thump and Water Tower
So just how did the annual Watermelon "Thump" get started in Luling, in summer inferno southeastern Texas?
We imagine the sweltering pre-air conditioning populace cleverly turning the local watermelon crop into personal cooling systems -- refreshing liquid fruit helmets with carved eye- and mouth-holes. On the street, they'd spit watermelon seeds at one another in friendly greeting....
This isn't what happened. But they're pretty strange in Luling. And it's hot.
Entering town from the interstate, the first thing a visitor will notice is an impressive watermelon water tower, poking up 154 feet from a melon patch (or perhaps just a municipal patch). The horizontal green and light yellow stripes, combined with the shape of the 56 ft. diameter storage tank, creates a good watermelon effect.
The center of this rural town of about 5,000 lies along railroad tracks where oil field workers first pitched their tents. Old oil pump jacks around town have been decorated with goofy plywood paintings of animals and characters -- a cow jumping over the moon, a shark, and a yokel eating a big slice of watermelon. Many of the wells are still active, sucking away on people's lawns, in parks and behind businesses. The Central Texas Oil Patch Museum was created a few years ago to chronicle the boom years in Luling.
In 1954, the principal of the elementary school dreamt up an annual festival to celebrate and promote the local watermelon industry. A naming contest led a high school kid to flash on the brilliant name: Thump*. For over half a century, the town has held the Thump, featuring music and events, a seed spitting competition (ready to break the 70-ft. distance barrier any day now), and an affable competition between growers over who has produced the largest watermelon.
The Championship Melon auction is where the farmers roll out their super-sized "black diamond" watermelons -- 50+ lbs., and winners have been known to plump up to over 80 lbs. (as recorded in 1962 by the biggest bruiser in the history of the Thump).
A Watermelon Thump Queen is crowned each year, and rides in the parade. The Watermelon Thump is held the last weekend in June.
* Tipster Tom Stradt explains why you would thump a watermelon: "Basically, you test the ripeness of a melon by flicking the husk with your index finger. If you get a somewhat hollow sound from the melon, it is ripe. Now the earliest local grown watermelons in Texas begin to ripen after the first week in June, so the 'Thump' is a harvest festival of sorts, marking the availability of ripe watermelons."