Hermiston-Portland Resurrect Watermelon Rivalry

Release Date: 

Elected officials from the City of Hermiston and the City of Portland are getting together July 31st to resurrect a long-standing rivalry over a slice of watermelon. 


Where:  Pioneer Courthouse Square- Portland

When:  11:30am-  Hermiston/Portland Seed Spitting Contest

              Watermelon/produce giveaway to follow immediately

In the 1980s, former Hermiston Mayor Frank Harkenrider challenged then-Portland Mayor, Bud Clark, to a watermelon seed spitting contest, and started an annual event which lasted until 2007.  The Hermiston delegation also brought over a truckload of watermelons and other produce to share with Portlanders during those events.  At 11:30 a.m. Portland Commissioner Dan Saltzman, State Representative Greg Smith, and several Hermiston City Councilors will load their cheeks with Hermiston Watermelon seeds and compete to see who can launch a seed the farthest.  The group will begin giving away a truck-load of Hermiston watermelons, cantaloupe, potatoes, and other produce immediately after the contest.


“We’re really happy that we could bring back this great event and continue to build on our relationship with our partners in Portland,” said Hermiston Mayor Dave Drotzmann.


Both cities have seen many changes since the first watermelon exchanges of the 1980s.  Hermiston officially became the largest city in Eastern Oregon with the release of the 2010 U.S. Census, passing Pendleton after many years of strong economic growth in western Umatilla County.  Hermiston grew by nearly 60% between 1990 and 2010, with a current population of over 17,000 residents, the city now anchors an area with a population of 37,000 people within a 10 mile radius of Hermiston.


The Hermiston area’s continued growth is tied largely to its strategic location near the intersection of two Interstate Highways, two Columbia River Ports, two Union Pacific Railroad main lines, and thousands of acres of irrigated farmland.  Additionally, at just 30 minutes from the Tri-Cities, Washington, the Hermiston-area has the largest 30-mile laborshed of any community in Eastern or Central Oregon, with more than 117,000 workers living within a 30 minute drive of Hermiston.  Hermiston also boasts nearly 300 acres of “Project Ready” certified industrial land, maintains an active Enterprise Zone property tax abatement program, and has various incentive tools for other businesses in the new downtown Urban Renewal District.


This year’s event, sponsored by the City of Hermiston, the City of Portland, and the Greater Hermiston Area Chamber of Commerce, received many generous contributions to make it successful.  The Wal-Mart Distribution Center, located in Hermiston, will provide all of the transportation for the produce from Hermiston to Portland.  Additionally, many Hermiston-area growers readily donated produce for the event, including Bellinger Farms, Walchli Farms, and Bud Rich Potato.


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