Experts say come of the sweetest and juiciest watermelons grown in California come from the fields around Manteca.
That’s because the climate and soil that is conducive to growing wine grapes high in sugar content — hot days and cool nights thanks to Delta breezes plus well-draining soil — also does the same for watermelons.
It is why the Manteca Chamber of Commerce is opting to celebrate the popular summertime melon as part of a revamped street fair set for Saturday-Sunday on June 4-5 in downtown Manteca.
The switch last year from the first week of April due to ongoing COVID issues to the first weekend in June was met with enthusiasm from vendors and attendees alike. Also adding a salute to watermelons proved to be well-received.
It is why the 20-year plus annual event is now becoming more of a festival celebrating watermelons complete with watermelon-related games and contests, live entertainment, and even a Miss Watermelon.
There will of course be the food, craft, commercial, and other vendors.
Speaking of vendors, Manteca Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Joann Beattie noted space is filling up fast with every available booth location almost claimed on Yosemite Avenue.
The weather in June is more predictable as chances of rain is almost nil and the blustery early spring winds are not a concern. That, and the time of year, was a big hit with attendees.
“There isn’t really that much going on in Manteca at the start of June,” Beattie said, adding it is a great way for Manteca to kick-off the summer.
The Manteca Crossroads Watermelon Street Faire is being conducted the weekend that caps the first week of summer break for schools. It also comes the weekend after Memorial Day that will see the return of Manteca’s two-day salute to those that have sacrificed for their country.
The chamber event will have more of the feel of the Sunrise Kiwanis Manteca Pumpkin Fair as it will be more of a festival as opposed to a street fair.
And while Manteca is the undisputed top pumpkin growing region on the West Coast with almost 80 percent of the commercial crop grown in California coming from surrounding fields, pumpkin tonnage pales compared to the watermelons grown in the Manteca, Ripon, and Tracy countryside that are brokered through three local distributors such as Perry & Son as well as Van Groningen & Sons.
In 2020 Manteca growers shipped 12,900 tons of pumpkins valued at $9.2 million that was grown on 1,400 acres. The same year farmers harvested 83,500 tons of watermelon valued at $38.9 million from 1,800 acres.
Watermelons was the first signature crop in the Manteca area that hit tables across the country after Ed Powers 116 years ago planted the first seeds.
Those securing vendor space prior to May 15 will be able to do so at rates $50 lower than after that date.
The two-day rates cover food $350 ($400 for non-chamber member), handmade crafts $175 ($200 for non-chamber member, commercial $220 ($270 for non-chamber member), and non-profit $150 ($200 for non-chamber member).
For more information go to manteca.org or call (209) 823-6121.
To contact Dennis Wyatt, email firstname.lastname@example.org