DOSWELL, Va. — The winner of this year’s giant watermelon competition set a new State Fair of Virginia record with a whopping 254-pound entry.
Hank Houston of Spotsylvania County grew the largest watermelon, which broke the previous record: a 246-pound melon grown by Davis Wells of Hanover County in 2016.
Houston, a construction worker who raises huge watermelons and pumpkins as a hobby, also holds the State Fair record for the largest pumpkin, which weighed in at 1,341 pounds in 2015.
Houston keeps meticulous records about past years’ soil analysis, genetics and practices in an effort to increase the weight of his super-sized produce.
“I used the same seeds from last year’s watermelon winner,” said Houston, whose 225.7-pound watermelon won a blue ribbon at the 2017 State Fair.
Although this year’s winning pumpkin didn’t break the overall record, it broke its grower’s record for the third year in a row, weighing in at more than 1,000 pounds.
Ricky Atkins of Southampton County earned this year’s blue ribbon for the heaviest pumpkin, which weighed 1,217 pounds—the second-largest ever weighed at the fair. Atkins won the contest last year with a 973-pound pumpkin and in 2016 with a lighter pumpkin that weighed 879 pounds.
“My goal is always to get to 1,000 pounds, and this is the first year my pumpkin has broken 1,000,” Atkins said.
Growing giant pumpkins is a family affair for the Atkins family. He pointed out that five pumpkins out of the family’s patch were in this year’s competition, including the second-place 1,069-pound pumpkin grown by his wife, Brenda Atkins.
The giant pumpkin and giant watermelon judging took place Sept. 29. Winning entries will be on display through Oct. 7 at The Meadow Event Park in Caroline County.
— Virginia Farm Bureau Federation