Highlighting one of Hermiston’s signature crops, the inaugural Melon Fest is this weekend in Hermiston.

“We’re trying to do something fun to represent Hermiston,” said Nancy Walchli, a member of the Hermiston Downtown District.

The idea behind the development of the festival street was to have regular events to draw people downtown, said Larry Fetter, Hermiston Parks & Recreation director. He said they had been pondering the idea of having a festival that focused on watermelons. And with melons at their peak during the month of August, Fetter said it made sense to have the event after the Umatilla County Fair.

“We wanted to do something to celebrate our most popular product,” he said.

Melon Fest is Saturday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. in downtown Hermiston. There is no admission charge. It features kids activities — including face-painting, games and a waterslide — live entertainment (Jonna Kopta at 9 a.m. and Chase Craig Band at 11 a.m.) food and craft vendors, a photo booth and a watermelon seed spitting contest (noon). Also, watermelon slices will be handed out.

In addition, Splash and Dash 2019 takes place at 11 a.m. The bathtub race features a pair of retired industrial tubs from the Hershey Chocolate Factory, Fetter said. Teams of three people — including one driver and two pushers — will race on an obstacle course in single-elimination heats. The top team will win a pizza party for six.

Also, people are encouraged to don their best melon-related attire for a watermelon costume contest at 1 p.m. All ages are welcome to enter with first place receiving $300, $200 for second place and $100 for third.

The Hermiston Downtown District has jumped on board with the festival street and the creation of events to bring people to the Main Street area. Walchli, who is a broker with Christianson Realty Group, said working with a variety of people and groups brings different ideas for activities. The more involvement, she said, the better chance of creating events that draw interest.

“The more vibrant our downtown is with more activities, the more support we get,” Fetter said. “It’s really cool to see new businesses come to life.”

An after-party is planned at Maxwell Pavilion. The 21-and-older event begins at 6 p.m. at South First Place near West Orchard Avenue. In addition to music by The Outsiders, a presentation (6:30 p.m.) will be made honoring the major watermelon producers in the area. For more information about the after-party, call 541-561-1047 or 541-289-7415.

If space is still available, the registration deadline for Splash and Dash participants and vendors is Thursday. Rules and team sign-up forms for the bathtub race are available at Hermiston City Hall, 180 N.E. Second St., or the Hermiston Community Center, 415 S. Highway 395. For vendor information, stop by Lucky Endz Gifts, 239 E. Main St. For more about Melon Fest, visit www.facebook.com/hermistondowntown.

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