Liberty man repeats title with big watermelon

RALEIGH — Andrew Vial of Liberty calls his watermelon-growing expertise a hobby.

It’s a pretty good one.

Vial was the winner again in the Great Pumpkin & Watermelon Weigh-off that’s associated with the North Carolina State Fair at the North Carolina State Fairgrounds.

Vial was the winner with an entry of 306 pounds.

There were 22 watermelons entered into the contest.

A year ago, Vial’s 341-pound entry was the largest in the history of the N.C. State Fair.

Vial, 39, puts in up to 60 hours a week tending to his crop of watermelons.

Second place went to Patrick VanBeck of Willow Springs with a watermelon weighing 291.5 pounds. Third place was Christopher Kent of Sevierville, Tenn., at 287 pounds.

Based on information from N.C. State Fair officials, this competition marked the highest average weight for the top 10 watermelons compared to any other competition in the country.

“We have some impressive entries this year,” said April Blazich, horticulture superintendent. “The giant pumpkins and watermelons always draw big crowds, and this year’s fair-goers won’t be disappointed with the entries. They are all photo-worthy.”

The sharp color of some of the pumpkin entries were particularly impressive to some observers.

The competition is open to growers from across the nation.

The heaviest pumpkin was 1,461 pounds. That was entered by Chris Rodebaugh and his daughter Stella from Lewisburg, W. Va. Second place went to Danny Vester of Spring Hop at 1,217.5 pounds, while Stephen Wright from Waynesboro, Va., was third at 1,106.5 pounds.

The competition is sanctioned by the Great Pumpkin Commonwealth.

By Bob Sutton