In 1900, the first inklings of what is now the Green River Melon Days festival began when local melon growers in Green River, Utah, got together to celebrate the late summer melon harvest. Melons do exceptionally well in Green River—the crop grows well in environments with sandy soils, hot days, and not too much water.
As the celebration of the melon harvest continued, Green River decided to officially name the festival in 1906. According to Elayne Hinsch, the collections manager and curator at the John Wesley Powell River History Museum, the festival has been both a tourism draw and a community event for decades.
“People will come specifically to taste these melons that they’ve always heard about,” Hinsch said, “and the families that have long since moved away will still come back to Green River just for Melon Days.”
Green River has a population of less than a thousand, but Robin Hunt, the city’s event coordinator, expects there to be over 6,000 people in town for the Melon Days Festival. Melons are how Green River identifies itself, she said.
“We have some amazing families who work really hard to grow these melons,” Hunt said. “Each melon takes a specific amount of time to plant and grow and when you harvest it, you’ve got to pick it at the right time. So it’s fun to be able to celebrate those families and the hard work they put into growing these delicious melons.”
This year’s festival runs from Friday, September 16 to Saturday, September 17. The festival centers around the vendor and melon fair held on both days at OK Anderson City Park. This year, there will be 91 total vendors, according to Hunt—16 are food vendors.
Hunt said vendor participation has been considerable: there’s a waiting list. The vendors range from information booths for organizations to local artisans. Many vendors travel from all over the region.
“We’ve got a huge variety,” Hunt said.
There will also be three historic melon growers at the park offering melon taste tests and melons for purchase: Dunham Farms, Thayn Farms, and Vetere Farms. Hunt said she knows of at least 10 varieties of melons that will be available during the festival. There will also be a melon carving contest—carvings must be created with local melons—and a photo contest, again featuring local melons. You can send submissions to firstname.lastname@example.org; winners of each competition will receive $100.
On Friday, special events include a softball tournament, a 3-man scramble golf tournament, and a Wild West dance night. On Saturday, there will be a 5K run followed by the iconic parade featuring a number of floats, including a watermelon slice float constructed in 1960.
Saturday continues with the second day of the softball tournament and Melon Days Fun Shoot at the Green River Shooting Range. The festival will end with a free Levi Blom concert: Blom is an emerging country music singer/songwriter from Montana.
“Melon Days is one of the few traditions still standing over all these years,” Hinsch said. “I just know that a lot of people get so excited to have this celebration every September.”
You can find the full schedule of events at www.melon-days.com.