Farmers ripe with anticipation after perfect watermelon weather

CAVE CITY, AR (KAIT) - Ripe watermelons are cracking open earlier than ever in Region 8, and it's all due to a record warm winter and spring.

It led to an unusually early planting season, and who would know better than a Cave City native by the name of George Carter, who is located right in the heart of watermelon country.

"I'm 64, and I've been raising them all my life. I Started handling watermelons when I was 12 years old."

Carter says he has never seen such an early harvest.

So early, in fact, that he almost slipped up and waited too long to harvest.

"This year, I'm almost three weeks earlier than I was last year. I haven't even started picking last year, on this day. I started the 12th."

Watermelon prices are going up, but it reflects the back-breaking work leading up to the harvest.

So far this summer, Carter has battled cucumber beetles, extreme drought and scorching temperatures.

"The heat is hurting watermelons worse than the drought. They grow out of the vine and that sun shines on them when it gets 100-plus degrees, it'll burn the top of it."

Despite these hardships, the watermelon crop is looking better than what Carter expected.

"I don't think it's going to be a bumper crop, but I'm not complaining about it."

Conditions are also ripe for the 33rd annual Cave City Watermelon Festival.

It's going so well that all ten registered gourd farmers located along main street are planning to donate up to 6,000 pounds of the beloved summer mainstay.

Carter says the crowd grows larger every year, and expects an even more people for this year's 33rd Annual Watermelon Festival.

The event is scheduled to kick off with watermelon judging followed by performances by Rockin' Luke Stroud and American Idol finalist Lauren Gray.

For a full rundown of the 33rd Annual Cave City Watermelon Festival times and events, click here.

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