Watermelon growers and their cohorts are under a tight deadline to build a new “splatform” in Vincennes, Ind., in preparation for national news coverage of the sixth annual New Year’s Eve watermelon drop.
“We sort of demolished the splatform last year by accident,” said Rick Linenburg, the local John Deere dealer and one of the founders of the watermelon drop. “The watermelons were frozen from being in storage and, well, there went the splatform.”
The event has attracted the attention of the CNN news staff. Reporter Gary Tuchman is scheduled to cover the watermelon drop at George Rogers Clark National Historic Park on the banks of the Wabash River. Tuchman’s live reports will be part of Anderson Cooper’s coverage of New Year’s Eve events around the world.
The National Watermelon Promotion Board is supporting the event by sending chef Joe Poon, known for his high-speed watermelon carving. Also scheduled is comedian Gallagher, who will kick off his “Last Smash Tour” in the hours leading up to the watermelon drop with a show at Vincennes Lincoln High School.
Linenburg said the event has been consistently growing since he and a handful of friends, including local restaurateur John Frenz, dreamed up the idea one cold, boring night.
“We wanted to do something to represent Knox County and what goes on here, what’s important to this region,” Linenburg said Dec. 19. “There’s a lot of corn grown around here, but it’s kind of hard to drop a bushel of corn and make much of an impact.”
So the ad hoc group decided to drop watermelons.
This year 14 prime watermelons from the region’s growers will be placed in an 18-foot, 500-pound watermelon and hoisted 100 feet into the air above the new splatform. At the stroke of midnight a trapdoor in the bottom of the giant watermelon will be tripped and the watermelons will plummet toward their celebratory splat.
Mark Arney, executive director of the National Watermelon Promotion Board, said the Knox County area in Southern Indiana is a prime watermelon growing region, making the annual event an excellent reminder for consumers who are fans of the sweet summertime fruit.
The Illiana Watermelon Association has also embraced the event, and its organizers, inviting Linenburg and Frenz to sit on its board of directors. This year the association is paying for high-definition video coverage of the watermelon drop.