Newberry festival crowns new seed spitting champ

The City of Newberry held its 77th annual watermelon festival—and the nation’s longest-running watermelon festival—on Saturday at the CountryWay Town Square, crowning a new Watermelon Queen and seed-spitting champion. 

The festival featured more than 100 vendors with face painting, inflatables and free slices of watermelon. Newberry Mayor Jordan Marlowe spat the ceremonial first watermelon seed, a tradition held for 77 years. 

During the celebrity watermelon seed spitting contest, Daniel Fisher, running for Alachua County School Board, sent the official judge running after launching a watermelon seed 41 feet. He won the contest with that shot, leaving Newberry Commissioner Mark Clark in second place with a respectable 37 feet.

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Daniel Fisher, running for school board, won the seed-spitting contest with a 41-foot launch, beating last year's record by 18 feet
Daniel Fisher, running for school board, won the seed-spitting contest with a 41-foot launch, beating last year’s record by 18 feet.

Last year, Alachua County Sheriff Clovis Watson Jr. captured the crown from Congresswomen Kat Cammack, but Watson failed to show up to defend his 23-foot winning mark. He would have faced stiff competition besides Fisher. 

Here’s a breakdown of some of distances spat by the elected officials and candidates: 

  • Mark Clark: Newberry commissioner
    • 37 feet
  • Brandon Peters: candidate for state House District 22
    • 31 feet
  • Rick Coleman: Newberry commissioner
    • 25.5 feet
  • Tim Marden: Newberry commissioner
    • 25.5 feet
  • Ty Appiah: candidate for state House District 22
    • 22.5 feet
  • Ray Holt: candidate for the Alachua County School Board District 3
    • 15.5 feet
2022 Ms. Teen Queen Ashlee Thomas, left, and 2022 Teen Queen Laney Grinstead speak at the Newberry Watermelon Festival
2022 Ms. Teen Queen Ashlee Thomas, left, and 2022 Teen Queen Laney Grinstead speak at the Newberry Watermelon Festival. 

The Newberry Watermelon Pageant happened last weekend and winners were presented at the festival. Ashlee Thomas received the crown to become the 2022 Newberry Watermelon Ms. Teen Queen while Laney Grinstead became the 2022 Newberry Watermelon Teen Queen.

The Newberry City Commission also awarded Bethany Barfield with a key to the city. Barfield was the Newberry Watermelon Queen in 2019 then she won the Florida Watermelon Queen for 2020-21 before claiming the National Watermelon Queen title. 

During the pet contest, four dogs—Link, Duchess, Callie, Ellie Mae—won prizes for Best Dressed Boy, Best Dressed Girl, Best Behaved and Best Overall, respectively. 

“This is the most serious contest we’ve got out here today, ladies and gentlemen,” Marlowe said. “People take their pets very seriously. We need applause.”

Pet contestants and owners ready for the award ceremony
Pet contestants and owners ready for the award ceremony.

Link, Duchess, Callie and Ellie Mae faced no feline opposition, however Ginger, a snake, entered as the only non-canine competitor but failed to garner votes from the Newberry commissioners. 

Newberry’s watermelon festival started in 1946.

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