For some Americans, the Independence Day holiday is all about celebrating the country’s history through good food, good friends and good fireworks.
In Pauls Valley, July 4 is also about watermelon seeds — spitting them, actually.
The south-central Oklahoma city of 6,000 is once again hosting the annual World Championship Watermelon Seed Spitting Contest to see who can propel the fruit’s seeds the farthest.
Several hundred people are expected at the 57th annual event as competitors attempt to set records. The record for the contest was set back in 1989, when a Chicago man spit a seed 66 feet, 11 inches.
“We’ve seen some great records throughout time here, but we’re hoping — we’re really hoping — to break them this year,” said Lindsey Temple, director of Main Street Pauls Valley, which is putting on the event.
The event, held in conjunction with the city’s annual fireworks show, is believed to be one of the first seed-spitting contests organized in the country. Since then, other communities across America have started holding their own.
“Fifty seven years — that’s a long time,” Temple said. “I can’t think of many events in Oklahoma that have stood that test of time.”
Registration for the contest is free, and there are three age groups: 12 and under, 13-18 and 19 and over. Participants are given a slice of watermelon and spit as many seeds as possible. Whoever spits a seed the farthest, wins.
Over the years, Temple said it’s become harder to find watermelons that have seeds because many grow the fruit seedless now.
So what’s the key to a good seed spitting?
“It’s all in the curl of your tongue,” said Adrienne Grimmett, 72, curator of Pauls Valley’s Santa Fe Depot Museum, who has taken part in the event in the past.
Temple, who recently joined Main Street Pauls Valley, said she decided to practice her technique recently in anticipation of the upcoming contest.
“I’m terrible at it!” she said. “I was lucky to get maybe 2 (feet).”