Watermelon queens, governor visit Auction Block in Laurel

By Scott Bleile

Five Watermelon Queens were on hand to promote watermelons and agriculture at the Laurel Auction Block on Thursday, Aug. 2. They were joined by Delaware Governor John Carney and Delaware State Senator Bryant Richardson for the morning festivities.

Laurel's Gabrielle Hastings, 2018 Miss Mar-Del Watermelon Queen, was the hostess.

"This is an awesome day," Hastings said. "The other queens and I are here to bring awareness to not only watermelons, but to agriculture also. Agriculture is the backbone of the states of Delaware and Maryland. There are so many great people in Maryland and Delaware who work very hard to bring us these great watermelons that are sold all over the country. This is a very hard-working industry."

Hastings was joined by the 2018 National Watermelon Queen, Savannah Christensen from Florida; Miss Georgia, Savannah Hartley; Miss Florida, Camri Campbell; and Miss South Carolina, Emily Dicks.

Governor Carney's visit was very important to the watermelon growers.

"This is the first time in a long time that the governor of Delaware has stopped by for a visit," said Kevin Evans, president of the Mar-Del Watermelon Association. "With his visit, it shows to us how important our industry is to the state. Ag is the backbone and Governor Carney shows huge support to the industry. All the monies raised today through the auction of the special melons helps pay the costs for the queens' visit and for other functions we hold during the year. We have about 3,000 tractor trailers go out of the block each year. The nice thing is that sunshine and good weather sells."

Governor Carney was there along with his Assistant Ag Secretary Austin Short.

"The family farmers are extremely important to our state," Carney said. "Farms like the Collins farm in Laurel and the Evans farm in Bridgeville keep us in business. It has been a rough season for the farmers this year.

Too much rain, then not enough rain and then too much again has really hurt them. They know that the rain is beyond their control and that is why we are here to help as much as possible."

The first melon up for the special auction was won by the governor. "I want to help promote this industry. I donated it back to the queens, who will see that it goes to a family in need," commented Carney.

All of the queens were excited to see the number of people in attendance.

"I travel all over the country to promote the watermelon industry," said National Queen Christensen. "It is important for people to know how hard this industry works to provide fresh fruits and vegetables for the country. It is fun to travel to all the different places and meet the farmers who put food on our tables."

Miss Florida echoed her comments. "On the east coast, fruits and vegetables are very important. This is why we all visit different locations and try to get the word out about how great of a job the farmers do for us and how great the products are that they grow. I really enjoy meeting the people up and down the east coast. They are all very different, but all have one common goal and that is to put the best melons on the table."

Miss South Carolina said, "It is fun to see all the different states and promote the watermelons. People don't realize how much work goes into growing each year. Like Governor Carney said, it has been a very tough year for growers, but they have fought to get their crops to the auctions."

Miss Georgia was also happy to visit Delaware. "We all want the growers to succeed. This is why we are here. It brings the awareness and helps promote what they do. It is nice to see all the little girls here to meet us. They all want to be a watermelon queen someday."

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