ORLANDO, Fla. — The 106th annual National Watermelon Association convention featured record attendance, fundraising for charitable causes and the crowning of Paige Huntington of Texas as the 2020 National Watermelon Queen.
The Feb. 19-23 event at Disney’s Yacht Club Resort, drew a record crowd of more than 600, said Bob Morrissey, executive director of the National Watermelon Association.
“It has been absolutely incredible, and it really overwhelms us and delights us that this many people would turn out,” he said.
Morrissey said grower membership of the group is climbing in the second year of a national membership program.
The association is turning its focus on revising U.S. Department of Agriculture grade standards from watermelon and is creating a global watermelon research database that will be housed on the group’s website.
Beside raising over $350,000 for the association, the annual auction at the convention raised money for charities, including $100,000 for Warriors for Freedom, a group dedicated to help military veterans. The group also donated $45,0000 to the Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa, Fla.
The National Watermelon Queen was crowned Feb. 22.
Huntington, the 2019 Texas Watermelon Queen and graduate student at the University of Texas Health Science Center in Tyler, was named the 2020 National Queen. Huntington, the daughter of a second-generation farmer and rancher in northeast Texas, said she enjoyed being an ambassador for Texas watermelon growers in 2019.
“This past year, I’ve seen 80-year-olds become 16 again, I’ve seen pure joy and compassion in the hearts of many,” she said. “And I’ve seen the biggest smiles on people’s faces as they recalled watermelon memories from their childhood.”
She succeeds 2019 National Watermelon Queen Katie Honeycutt of North Carolina and will spend the next year on the National Watermelon Queen Tour, part of the promotion efforts by the association and also supported by the National Watermelon Promotion Board.