A homegrown festival that’s going on its 34th year is ready to offer family-friendly fun to go along with lots of watermelons.
The Irrigon Watermelon Festival kicks off Saturday with a morning breakfast from 6:30-9:30 a.m. While there is a fee to eat, there is no charge to enter Irrigon Marina Park for activities that will run into the night.
A parade winds through town beginning at 10 a.m. People are encouraged to register in advance, but may sign-up Saturday from 8-9:45 a.m.
The main stage entertainment headliner is The Wasteland Kings, a La Grande rock ‘n’ roll band — otherwise, most of the other acts include people with local roots — including Wade Aylett on at noon and 5 p.m.
“He’s an Oregon native and lives in Irrigon,” said Charlene Cooley, one of the event organizers. “He sings country music and he’s really good.”
Another highlight, Cooley said, is the City Leader Seed Spitting Contest at 3:30 p.m. Area government officials will compete mano-a-mano — showing off their spitting prowess with watermelon seeds.
Also, back this year is a lip sync contest. Popular during the early days of the festival, it was brought back in 2017 after a 12-year hiatus, Cooley said.
“It went over really well,” she said. “People really seemed to like it.”
The festival also is known for its raffles — offering people several ways to walk away as winners. General raffle tickets are $1 each or six for $5. Items up for grabs include admission to Triple Play Family Fun Park, including Raptor Reef indoor waterpark, located near Coeur d’Alene; tickets to Silverwood Theme Park, Tri-City Dust Devils tickets, a Pendleton Round-Up package, gift certificates and swag from local businesses. Also, a 50-50 raffle offers half the pot from sales of the 2018 event button, which costs $2. And, 300 Fishermen’s Dream raffle tickets ($10 each) will be sold. Valued at $1,200, the package features a guided steelhead trip for six people by Stahl’s Guide Service and a custom steelhead rod by Castaway Custom Rods.
In addition to watermelon sold by the slice, a barbecue chicken dinner will be available for purchase. More than two dozen vendors are confirmed, Cooley said. Also, the Oregon National Guard will land a helicopter of the baseball field and display some of their armored vehicles. Also, the adventurous can try the rock climbing wall. The evening crescendos with a street dance.
Derrick Kestler is getting revved up for the event’s car show. He invites people to join the parade and then display their vehicle at the park. The participation fee is $15 with registration from 9 a.m. to noon. There are multiple categories and trophy presentations will be made at 3 p.m. For more about the car show, call Kestler at 541-571-0421.
“It’s just a lot of fun,” Cooley said. “We have a lot of entertainment for all ages.”
For more information, call Cooley at 541-571-8541 or visit www.facebook.com/irrigonwatermelonfestival.