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August 11, 2013

Seeds fly, but spitters keep their teeth

DUNCAN —

RUSH SPRINGS — Thousands of people packed Jeff Davis Park on Saturday for the 69th annual Rush Springs Watermelon Festival. 
“It’s perfect weather and we’ve got a good crowd,” said State Rep. Joe Dorman, chairman for the event. “So far we’ve had no issues and I really think it may be one of the best festivals ever.”
Watermelon was the star. From slices and whole melons being sold to the annual seed spitting contest, it was watermelon mania.
“A lot of people think (the seed spitting contest) is embarrassing but it’s a good thing,” said Jim Williams, who worked to encourage people to participate.
“Think about how I felt when I got up there one time and spit my teeth out, but I laughed because it’s all about having a good time.”
Williams later admitted to stretching the truth a bit about his teeth flying but there were plenty of contestants of all ages signed to take part, so it’s possible the tale might have worked. The first one in the seed spitting contest was Brittany Ball, 2013 Watermelon Queen. 
Among her day’s duties —  helping with the Tiny Tot contest.
“It was so fun (helping) because I remember when I was little and doing Tiny Tots,” said Ball, who once got second place in the contest. “I was really looking forward to that and I enjoyed it.”
This year’s Little Mr. and Miss Rush Springs were Jacobi Laughlin and Laura Ladwig. They were coronated along with Ball on Saturday night and will spend the next year promoting the festival.
Second place went to Jacob Collier and Paytin Nunn, while third place went to Matthew Slatten and Kally Loyd.
Melvin and Betty Heath were recipients of the Pioneer Award, for their contributions to the Rush Springs community. Melvin is a Rush Springs native and graduate, while Betty hails from Chickasha. The couple will celebrate their 60th wedding anniversary in October. 
In their early years of marriage, the Heaths worked hundreds of acres of watermelons. They have three sons, all graduates of Rush Springs, and remain active in several organizations around town. Betty worked the Watermelon Festival for several years and Melvin was once a top drag racer, even designing his own car in the 1950s.

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