A Hoedown Dedicated Entirely to Watermelons? Only in Texas...

The Luling Watermelon Thump holds watermelon-eating contests for every age group, so grab the whole family
The Luling Watermelon Thump holds watermelon-eating contests for every age group, so grab the whole family | © ZUMA Press, Inc. / Alamy Stock Photo
Doug ONeill

Next to oil (and perhaps barbecued brisket), the most abundant commodity in Luling, Texas, is the watermelon – celebrated with a record-beating festival on the last full weekend in June.

What’s happening?

The small city of Luling, Texas – along the San Marcos River – has been hosting the Luling Watermelon Thump since 1954. In 2021, it’ll take place from June 24-27, during which the resident population of 5,869 swells like the titular fruit to some 30,000 people.

So, what’s a thump? The festival name comes from the tried-and-true technique of assessing the ripeness of a watermelon – thousands of which are grown in Luling. You thump the melon with your finger, hoping for a hollow sound indicating it’s ready to be eaten. Caution: a metallic ringing sound means it’s not yet mature.

In addition to the crowning of the Thump Queen, festivities include watermelon-eating contests, a watermelon auction, a farmers’ market, a beer garden, the World Championship Seed-Spitting Contest, live music, children’s games, a parade featuring local bands, a cornhole tournament, a car show, food booths and the much-anticipated watermelon weigh-in – where size really does matter.

Kids of all ages love the carnival rides at the Luling Watermelon Thump

All in all, the festival is a very weird and wonderful way to pass a weekend, especially with our fruitful selection of San Antonio hotels and experiences – your best bet for a base since small-town Luling, an hour’s drive away, is somewhat light on places to stay (but very big on watermelons).

Who’s there?

“Luling is a small place, quiet. The loudest thing you have here is the train,” says Amanda Avalos, crowned Watermelon Princess in 2019. “But we’ve always called ourselves the watermelon capital because each year we celebrate the watermelons being grown here and everybody gets involved,” says Bubba Damon, a Watermelon Thump board director, who lends a hand to the melon auction and car-show events.

And Bubba means everybody. His wife, Tandra, was the 1988 Thump Queen and continues to help out. Bubba and Tandra’s daughter, RaVanna, was voted Thump Queen in 2009 and rode into the parade on a tractor. Tandra’s aunt Ollie Joe wore the crown back in 1968. For the Damons, the Thump festival is a family affair – and that’s the vibe visitors can expect, too.

Kids get ready to start a watermelon-eating contest at the Luling Watermelon Thump |
Prepare to devour a lot of watermelon |
Every year, the festival crowns a new Thump Queen |

So, what are the must-attend events, according to locals? The watermelon-eating contest, for starters. “Some of our contestants get pretty serious about the watermelon-eating contest,” says former chair Dana McNabb. “They can eat a slice in a matter of 15 to 20 seconds. Back and forth like a typewriter.” Six-time champion Samantha Mager is more matter of fact: “You just go for it. You put it up to your mouth and just scrape as much as you can.”

There are also the watermelon seed-spitting championships, which have become a little intense in the past. In 1981, a Guinness World Record was set by a visitor from Houston who spat his watermelon seed an impressive 65ft, 4in. Then Luling reclaimed its rightful place in 1989 when local resident Lee Wheelis spat a distance of 68ft, 9⅛in. Tough to beat, we’d say, but you be the judge of that.

Don’t miss

Temperatures in Luling in late June average about 92F (33C), meaning you’ll want to find places to cool off. Luckily, there are lots of refreshing watermelons around. But if you’ve had your fill, Luling residents also favor the Zedler Mill Swimming Hole on the San Marcos River, about a five-minute drive from downtown Luling, across from the golf course.

Alternatively, if you’ve got kids in tow, the Schlitterbahn Waterpark in New Braunfels is flume heaven and only a 40-minute drive away. There’s also the nearby Natural Bridge Caverns. Sign up for the Hidden Passage Tour, which not only gives you a lesson in stalactites but also keeps you out of the blazing sun for a couple of hours. And for visitors who were expecting cowboy culture in this part of Texas, how about a little rainforest instead of a rodeo? Spend an afternoon exploring the tropical paradise at Palmetto State Park. The bogs throughout the park are surrounded by dense vegetation, creating a jungle-like atmosphere.

The entire family will love exploring the Natural Bridge Caverns

If the lines during the Luling Watermelon Thump meant you couldn’t get your fill of the barbecued brisket that the town is known for, wait until the crowds have vamoosed and make a beeline for Luling Bar-B-Q on East Davis. Just remember that rural Texans tend to eat early, so the restaurant closes at 6pm every night except Saturdays – when you can go buck wild and chow down as late as 7pm.

Keen to make a weekend of it? Browse our curated collection of hotels & experiences available over the Luling Watermelon Thump – bookable on Culture Trip.

landscape with balloons floating in the air

KEEN TO EXPLORE THE WORLD?

Connect with like-minded people on our premium trips curated by local insiders and with care for the world

Since you are here, we would like to share our vision for the future of travel - and the direction Culture Trip is moving in.

Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.

Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.

Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.

We know that many of you worry about the environmental impact of travel and are looking for ways of expanding horizons in ways that do minimal harm - and may even bring benefits. We are committed to go as far as possible in curating our trips with care for the planet. That is why all of our trips are flightless in destination, fully carbon offset - and we have ambitious plans to be net zero in the very near future.

Edit article