Where Watermelon Rules


Summer is nigh, a time when watermelons ripen for picking in the fields of Luling, Texas, which claims the title, "Watermelon Capital of the World."

To give thanks to these very large vegetables and their growers, the town holds an annual watermelon festival called the "Watermelon Thump" -- thump, of course, being what you do to a melon to tell if it's ripe.CBS News Sunday Morning Correspondent Bill Geist reports.

As one girl explains: "You hit it real hard, and if it's hollow, then the more hollow, the better. The more ripe."

The Watermelon Thump (the festival) started back in 1954 as a small local event. Now, it draws some 40,000 visitors to Luling, a southeast Texas town of just 5,000 residents

Before the last Thump, Bubba Damon scoured his watermelon patch, hoping to pick a winner for the festival's Biggest Watermelon Contest. When he found a contender, he put it in a cage, "to keep the rabbits away and the deer and the coyotes."

Meanwhile, 21-year-old Christi Rheinboldt, 12-time Luling watermelon speed-eating champion, was tuning up at home with her mother.

Reports Rheinboldt, "The slowest time was 40 seconds. The fastest was 24 seconds… I don't play around."

Chimes in her mother, "I'm very proud of her."

And what parent wouldn't be proud? Geist himself stepped up to the plate, explaining, "The champ takes on all comers."

He only got laughed at by Rheinboldt.

Lee Wheelis was practicing in his backyard for the watermelon seed-spitting contest. He's a spitting legend, having set the all-time Luling record: 68 feet, 9 1/8th inches.

"People started calling me on the phone, wanting radio interviews," says Wheelis. "Kids at church came up and asked me for my autograph… And it was all kind of overwhelming."