SAVANNAH, Ga. — The National Watermelon Association wrapped up a successful 100th birthday celebration at its annual convention.
Bragging rights were on the line during the association’s first-ever watermelon eating contest. NWA president John Corsaro dove face-first into first place in the adult division. Corsaro gave a tongue-in-cheek victory speech in which he thanked his family for their support and understanding during his years of training for the event.
Madeleine Seabolt, a 9-year-old from Poway, Calif., won the children’s divison.
Corsaro’s win stood out as a weekend highlight for Stephanie Barlow, director of public relations and social media for the Orlando, Fla.-based National Watermelon Promotion Board.
“He was toting his plaque around with as much pride as an Olympic gold medal,” Barlow said.
Florida Watermelon Queen Brandi Harrison won the National Watermelon Queen crown and will serve as the industry’s ambassador to the world in 2014.
Allyson Brake, the North Carolina queen, took first runner-up; Jordan Skipper, representing Alabama, was second runner-up.
The NWA netted a record $632,260 at its annual auction. Melon One, Brooklyn, N.Y., was recognized at the closing awards banquet for donating the most loads of watermelons for the auction.
Auction highlights included trips to Pebble Beach, the NCAA Final Four, the Kentucky Derby and a NASCAR driving experience. Other auction items were signed by country music stars and sports legends.
Eleanor Bullock, who has been in charge of the watermelon queen program for more than half of the program’s existence, also earned recognition at the Feb. 22 awards banquet, where she was presented with a box full of cash.
Flabbergasted when she opened the gift on stage, Bullock said, “It’s the right color!”
Bullock was heralded by speaker Anita Field for her thriftiness as well as her classiness as promotions coordinator. During some rough financial times for the NWA, Field said, Bullock voluntarily cut her program’s budget by drastic amounts and found ways to make up the fund through outside donations. The gift of greenbacks served as appreciation for all the money Bullock saved the association over the years.
Jim Mastropietro won the Outstanding Service Award while the Illiana Watermelon Association took Watermelon Promotion of the Year honors for its New Year’s Eve-inspired Giant Watermelon Drop.
Next year’s NWA convention is set for Feb. 16-20 at the La Quinta Resort & Spa in La Quinta, Calif.