Watermelon festival features slices of outdoor fun

File photo Brooke Toler and Nikki Phillips, Irrigon Junior-Senior High School students, serve up plates of melons during the 2016 Irrigon Watermelon Festival. This year's event is Saturday at Irrigon Marina Park.

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 will wind through town beginning at 10 a.m. People are encouraged to register early, but may join the parade after registering Saturday morning between 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.

“We try to have as much local entertainment as we can,” said Charlene Cooley, one of the event organizers.

Cooley is especially excited to have Wade Aylett on at noon and 5 p.m. The Oregon native who lives in Irrigon sings country music.

Another highlight, Cooley said, is the City Leader Seed Spitting Contest (3:30 p.m.). It pits area government officials who 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, Cooley said it was brought back in 2017 after a 12-year hiatus.

“It went over really well,” she said. “People really seemed to like it.”

The festival also is known for its raffles — offering those in attendance several ways to walk away as winners. General raffle tickets are $1 each or six for $5. Some of the items up for grabs includes admission to Triple Play Family Fun Park, including Raptor Reef indoor waterpark; tickets to Silverwood Theme Park; Tri-City Dust Devils tickets; a Pendleton Round-Up ticket package; gift certificates and swag from local businesses, and more. Also, a 50-50 raffle offers half of the pot from sales of the 2018 event button, which are $2. And, 300 tickets ($10 each) will be sold for the Fisherman’s Dream. Valued at $1,200, the package provides 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 barbecued chicken dinner will be available for purchase. About two dozen vendors are confirmed and more are likely to come on board by the weekend, Cooley said. Also, the Oregon National Guard will land a helicopter of the baseball field and display some of their armored vehicles. And for the adventurous, they will offer a rock climbing wall.

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 questions, call Kestler at 541-571-0421.

The evening crescendos with a street dance.

“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


Contact Community Editor Tammy Malgesini at or 541-564-4539

Recommended for you

(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.