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Record Crowd at 69th Annual Rush Springs Watermelon Festival

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RUSH SPRINGS, Okla._ Tens of thousands of people gathered in Rush Springs Saturday and all for the same reason, the 69th Annual Watermelon Festival.

Each year watermelon lovers come from all over the country, even the world, to get a taste of the town's mouthwatering watermelons grown by local farmers.

Their watermelons are served up and spit out by those who can't resist the sweet and refreshing fruit.

The number of people in attendance is shocking to some. Come the second Saturday of every August, an average of 30,000 people pour into the small town making it the communities largest event of the year.

Saturday was no different. The weather was ideal for watermelon eating, and brought in what appeared to be a record crowd.

"The biggest crowd this year that we have ever seen," said festival organizer Joe Dorman.

It's an event for all ages. Each year the Rush Springs Watermelon Festival celebrates the area's local crop of watermelons. But to Rush Springs natives it means so much more.

"It makes you proud to see all the hard work that the whole town puts in. And it takes everyone to put this together," said Klayn Heilman.

Klayn and Annys have special ties to the Watermelon Festival. Not only have they lived in Rush Springs all of their lives, they both also held the coveted title of Watermelon Queen. One in 1962 and the other in 1971. And the town's biggest celebration is a valued tradition in both of their families.

"I have been coming all my life, and my mom never missed a Watermelon Festival in all the years that it ran until she died in 2004," said Annys Dorman.

Both Klayn and Annys had daughters that were also Watermelon Queens. And in Rush Springs the Watermelon Festival is a event that everyone desires to be a part of. For this year's Watermelon Queen, Brittany Ball, the crown is something she has always admired.

"This is something that I have always dreamed of doing. I have wanted to be the Watermelon Queen ever since I was a little girl," said Ball.

And for everyone at Saturday's festival it all comes down to a love for watermelon. Mike Miller has won the contest for the largest watermelon 4 out of the last 5 years. And Saturday he captured the title again with a melon weighing in at 116 pounds. But his reasoning for growing watermelons is simple.

"I like to eat them," said Miller.

And that's why thousands came to southwest Oklahoma Saturday, to enjoy the delectable fruit.

"It is just delicious. It is so sweet and just as juicy as can be."

Saturday more than 60,000 pounds of watermelon was served.

"You can't help but it get it all over you, but it is worth it. It's the whole experience."

And for festival organizer and State Representative Joe Dorman, this event means everything to southwest Oklahoma.

"It is vital to not only promote the watermelons our farmers are growing, but also for the economic development of the entire area and entire region."

This event has been going strong since 1948. An average of 30,000 people attend each year. An impressive number since less than 2,000 people live in Rush Springs.

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