By Michael J. ARVIZU
Just what, exactly, is the best technique when it comes to watermelon seed spitting?
Sabrina Gonzalez might know. She has been working the watermelon seed spitting booth at the Lions Club Sunland-Tujunga Watermelon Festival for the past five years.
The key to successful watermelon seed spitting is, she said, getting a running start, spitting one seed at a time, lunging your head forward, and maybe testing the wind first, if you’re a pro – there really is not only one technique.
“I’ve seen a few different techniques,” she said. “Actually, the people who’ve done the best are folks who’ve never done it before.”
Watermelon seed spitting was just one of many attractions found this past weekend during the 52nd annual festival that, for the first time in its half-century of existence, was held about 15 miles to the east at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena.
Started in 1961, the festival’s traditional home has been Sunland Recreation Center, a city of Los Angeles-owned park made up of soccer fields and baseball diamonds located in the heart of downtown Sunland, about six miles west of La Crescenta.
The move, event organizers say, can be attributed to several reasons. The Sunland Recreation Center simply became too small for the annual event’s increasing size and popularity with the community. The festival features carnival rides, concession stands, and vendor booths. These were all packed into an area the size of two baseball diamonds.
The park was also very dusty, and parking was scarce. And because of the space’s small size, the number of vendors and concessions was limited.
The Rose Bowl, organizers say, is bigger, offers better parking, and is a landmark known throughout the community.
“It’s very recognizable and it also promotes the work of the Lions Club,” said Lions Club president and Watermelon Festival director Ara Zeithlian. “All of the proceeds from this festival help us achieve that goal.”
Zeithlian said reaction to the move has been mostly positive and couldn’t have been done without support from the Sunland-Tujunga communities.
“We’re still trying to say it’s the ‘Sunland-Tujunga Watermelon Festival’,” said Gonzalez. “When it was at Sunland Park, it felt like a small hometown event. This feels bigger. It’s kind of nice to get people from different places.”
The festival, Zeithlian said, has garnered more publicity than it ever did in Sunland and has been promoted heavily, with promotions on Yelp, Groupon and social media. Several local television stations mentioned the festival in their weekend newscasts.
“I had heard about the Watermelon Festival, I just didn’t know where the heck it was,” said Whittier resident Raymond Marker, who attended the festival on Friday. “I think it’s an amazing, bigger venue to have it in; more people can come.”