The Indiana State Fair is known for its competitions—from the 4-H Best in Show to a competition for the best alpaca costume—but the Watermelon Seed Spitting Contest is no ordinary competition.
In the very back of the Purdue Extension Agriculture/Horticulture Building, there is a giant ruler on the floor, measured in feet. There are benches surrounding the ruler, but there still isn’t enough room for all of the people.
The seed-spitting contest goes on every day until the fair ends, and it usually gathers a crowd of about 50 people. That’s 17 saliva-filled days.
Karen Lackey, of Indianapolis, is the announcer of the state fair watermelon seed-spitting contest.
Every day, she radiates a contagious excitement for the contest, and she never gets tired of it.
“I’ve worked [the contest] for eight years now, and the first year that I worked at this building, there were two or three of us, and it was like, ‘Okay, who wants to do it?’” Lackey said. “And so, I volunteered, and I’ve been doing it ever since.”
Lackey said she loves how the contest produces participants both young and old.
“It’s inexpensive, and you can sit and holler and have a good time, and you don’t have to have any skills to do it,” Lackey said. “The adults enjoy it, about, if not more, than the kids do.”
She also loves the interactions with the children.
“The fun part of it is, often times, you know, Mom and Dad said ‘You don’t spit.’ So they’ll stand there with it in their mouth and you have to keep encouraging them,” Lackey said. “And then they just look down and go, ‘pfffft.’”
She said the best part about it is each participant gets a ribbon, no matter how far they spit their seed.
“The whole thing is fun,” Lackey said. “It doesn’t matter if you spit two inches or you spit 30 feet. It’s a fun thing to do.”
Megan Melton is a writer for BSU Journalism at the Fair, a group of 30 students telling Indiana’s stories from a trailer somewhere between the cheese sculpture and the biggest sow. This Ball State University immersive-learning project works for elephant ears.