By Samantha SLAYBACK
Fruit fans from several neighboring cities braved the heat the weekend of July 19-20 to travel to Arcadia for the 53rd annual Sunland-Tujunga Watermelon Festival. The nonprofit festival is hosted every year by the Sunland-Tujunga Lions Club and entices guests from all over the Los Angeles area. This year’s festival was held at Santa Anita Race Track.
Carnival games, rides, and vendors covered the park offering entertainment as well as cool snacks and drinks to help guests beat the heat. Some visitors sought shade while enjoying the many musical performances throughout the day. Others gathered under the shaded picnic area to get their fill of free watermelon while checking out the display of diversely carved watermelons. A handful of brave guests even participated in the watermelon carving contest!
As part of the Watermelon Festival tradition, a Watermelon Festival king and queen were crowned and the rest of the royal court was appointed as well. One of the special guests this year was the national watermelon queen – Brandi Harrion from Florida. Her responsibilities as national watermelon queen require her to travel throughout the country and internationally to inform others about watermelon and produce.
“The queen travels 160 days a year promoting watermelons,” explained Harrion. “We’re like the Miss America of produce.”
Harrion has attended countless festivals throughout the country.
“Every Watermelon Festival is so different,” she said. “Sunland-Tujunga is a growing festival and we’re here to try and incorporate more watermelon aspects – like the watermelon carving.”
Among the vendor tents and game booths, the Lions Club had their booth to help guests and offer information about the nonprofit event. L.A. Lions Club member Marion Douglas was manning the tent and explained that all funds from the event are dedicated to Lions Club International.
“The Lions Club helps support the prevention and cure of blindness and other sight disorders,” said Douglas. “Funds also go [for] seeing eye dogs and the production of glasses.”
A truck at the festival each year offers free eye exams to guests, courtesy of the Lions Club and, if necessary, also makes referrals to organizations with free or affordable services.