Watermelon board to take milestone celebration to next level SAVANNAH, Ga. — While the focus was on fun and the 100th anniversary celebration, there was some work done at National Watermelon Association Convention Feb. 19-23.

Namely, the National Watermelon Promotion Board finalized its plans for the rest of the year.

In a full of watermelon milestones — it’s also the 50th year of the watermelon queen program — it’s only fitting the promotion board is focusing on the 200th anniversary of the “Star Spangled Banner.”

“(In his speech at the convention) Major Dan Rooney really brought to mind what an American institution watermelon really is. The 50th queen program birthday which coincided with the 100th convention was greatly appreciated by the audience, and is increasingly seen as an effective marketing tool for an iconic star spangled product,” said Stephanie Barlow, director of public relations and social media for the Orlando, Fla.-based board.

“This is 200th birthday of the 'Star Spangled Banner,' and we will be running a summer-long promotion for consumer and retail outreach to help celebrate all things red, white and blue,” she said.

Besides the “Star Spangled Summer” promotion, the promotion board plans a continent-wide retail display contest, a return to the Marine Corps Marathon and participation in Epcot’s International Flower and Garden Festival, Barlow said.

Despite drought conditions in some producing states, Barlow is optimistic “it’s going to be a great year” for the watermelon industry.

“We discussed with all the board members, old and new, their thoughts on the coming season in light of the world’s worst winter for most of the country and California’s longest drought. The consensus was, despite these challenges, everyone is confident there will be sufficient supplies of watermelon for this entire summer season and beyond.”

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Tarun Harit swore in the promotion board members.

New members, serving three-year terms, include producers Autumn Freeman, Bruceville, Ind.; Sarah Frey-Talley, Keenes, Ill.; Arthur Saikhon Jr., El Centro, Calif.; Kevin Antongiovanni, Bakersfield, Calif.; Chuck Botsford, Lake Oswego, Ore.; and John Morrow, Deming, N.M.

Handlers Ed McClellan, Ann Arbor, Mich.; Joseph Paul Gomes, Manteca, Calif.; Joshua Knox, El Dorado Hills, Calif.; and David Mayhue, Springdale, Ark. have also been appointed for three-year terms. Handler Brad Jones, Clermont, Fla., will complete a two-year term.

Reappointed members include handlers Thomas Runyan, Las Cruces, N.M., and Bradley Toney, Oaktown, Ind. (three-year terms).