My every step is seeded with pep as I slide from bed toward the Watermelon Day festival at Dallas Farmers Market on this morning. The who’s who of DFW’s local farmers, media, sustainable living enthusiast and watermelon lovers teem to taste America’s staple produce. After all, this is not the commonplace, annual holiday, like Pink Polish Day, Reality TV Day or Wear Your Retainer Day. No!
It is a humid, semi-sweltering Saturday morning, August 6th, in the Bible belt’ish state of Texas where everything is BIG; and it would be sacrilegious to not give National Watermelon Day (August 3rd) it’s due.
Jubilance abounds in The Shed as patrons clammer over which of the eight varieties of watermelon they’ll be wheeling away in carts, wagons, or their child’s stroller. Farmers’ tables glisten with drip from cut watermelon slices being slurped by shoppers contemplating their purchases. Speaking of slurping … Eden Hill Winery has craftily created a watermelon slushy based in their Divine White 2020. It’s subtly clean, fruity and the perfect accoutrement to ease into The Shed with.
Watermelons are plentiful this time of year, such that some farmers need to hire third parties to transport and sell their harvest, while others trek hundreds of miles with theirs, like Mr. Williams and his family. Herbert and Thongma, along with their son – Sammy – try to keep up with buyers hastily snagging their reputable produce. Today, it’s … you guessed it: watermelons.
Garnishing the air with a sultry trumpet and accompanying instruments, the band adds a Bourbon Street flavor to the mix, whistles dogmatically direct traffic and excitable patrons, and Mrs. Williams cuts into a watermelon so ripe it nearly busts like a can of biscuits. Meanwhile, Mr. Williams schools me on the difference between yellow and desert king seeded watermelons.
Both a vibrant yellow, however yellow seeded watermelons are bred sweeter and cross pollenated whereas desert king may not be as sweet but is a more nostalgic, slow growing, heartier plant. As Mrs. Williams gleefully offers me a yellow seeded slice, I bite, not really having a chance to chew what melts into crisp, sugary aqueousness. I swallow it all … seeds included.
Next to Mr. Williams is the Co-owner of Think Juice, Sherard. He explains the effects of the Watermelon Cucumber Mint Juice that I sample. It’s a proud juice with lofty ingredients and properties: “Eliminates toxins, Reduces inflammation, Improves digestive health, Protects the brain, Enhances detoxification, Hydrates body, Healthy eyes, and Reduces the risk of cancer.” He emphatically extols its contribution to healing his wife and business partner’s once ailing sight. These crowning achievements are most welcomed, though the cost might give you pause. However, this healing elixir is a palatable sensation of hydration in 12 ounces of cool, deliciousness … satiating thirst and justifying its worth.
As shoppers move around, they’re enamored by Earl Carter Jr.’s (IG: the_fruit_technician) one-handed-sculpting watermelon wonderment. I push my way into his space to ask about his remarkable talent. Mr. Carter is a disabled-chef-turned-fruit-technician, unwilling to be defined by a disability. Chiseling, one-handed chiseling, became his therapy. There’s no lemon festival on this day; yet Mr. Carter displays the look of harnessing your personal power to make lemonade. Stay tuned; he may be coming to a network near you soon.
Dallas Farmers Market is an indispensable microcosm of DFW culture, with musicians, artists, vendors offering earthy skin products, sustainably farmed produce, juices, meats, and the like. It is a microcosm of what’s domestically relevant. Watermelons, originating in Africa over 40 centuries ago (the first harvest being inscribed in Egyptian hieroglyphics) are now an American mainstay with their own National Day.