In our ongoing journey of fun things to do in the Lone Star State, today’s entry brings us to Luling, Texas and the famous Watermelon Thump.  What is a Watermelon Thump you ask?  Well, it’s a festival celebrating this small south-central Texas town’s agricultural roots of the watermelon.   The town was founded in 1874 as a railroad stop meeting one of the various cattle trails that made up the Chisholm Trail.  Oil was discovered in the 1920’s and today many of the still-producing pump jacks extracting the black gold from the earth are enhanced with whimsical decorations, such as a WW I biplane, a cowboy on a bucking bronco, animals and many others.  The Thump started in 1954 and draws people from all over Texas the last weekend in June and this year we were able to attend.  As we drove into the outskirts of this town of approximately 5,000, the first thing you notice is that several of the water towers have been painted to look like giant watermelons.  Nice touch.  The town is on the banks of the beautiful San Marcos river and there are several businesses dedicated to encouraging canoes, kayaks, swimming, fishing, etc on the river.  We arrived mid-morning just as the event was opening.  Indeed, we got to see about half of the opening parade as it wound through the city.  There is something about a small-town parade that speaks to the spirit.  The veterans’ marching, the 4H clubs, the high school marching bands with the cheerleaders on the back of a pickup.  Church groups, civic clubs, small-business sponsors all with decorated trailers or pickups proudly grinning at friends, neighbors, family, and gathered strangers lined along the streets.

 

From there we found our parking spot several blocks from the main area and walked past the farmer’s market with many sellers offering peaches, onions, garlic, corn, tomatoes, radishes, as well as the expected melons.  We quickly decided to window shop only, and do our serious shopping on the way back,  to make it easier  while we walked through the craft booths.  Going early meant that while some booths were still setting up, we were also beating the June Texas heat, that promised another 100 degree day.  We spent 45 minutes perusing the various craft booths and chatting with the owners.  While this event was perhaps smaller than several festivals we have attended over the years, it was just as much fun.  Unfortunately, the famous events such as the melon auction where prize melons can fetch as much as $22,000, the melon eating contest to see who can eat a slice of watermelon the fastest, and the incredible watermelon seed-spitting contest, were all to be held late afternoon and our schedule did not permit us to stay that long.  The Guinness Book of World Records lists the current record holder with 68 feet, 9 and 1/8 inches, set at the Watermelon Thump in 1989.  They have a building with stands set up inside to watch the attempts to set a new record.  There is also a large covered area where touring country bands perform at night.

 

From the craft booths we headed to an early lunch.  What do we look for at these great festivals we visit?  Why BBQ of course!  And Luling has been praised as having two of the top spots in the state:  City Market and Luling Bar-B-Que.  We headed to City Market first, but so did a large crowd of people, so we quickly stepped down the street to Luling Bar-B-Que.  Stepping into the old building, the aroma gets your taste buds drooling.  Though very crowded, we were able to grab a small table and stood in line while deciding what to try. As usual, I got the two-meat plate with brisket and sausage while my better half got the chopped BBQ sandwich.   Among numerous optional  sides we chose potato salad and Cole slaw.  BBQ sauce was not poured on the meat, but provided at each table for those that prefer it.  I am a sauce man myself but always appreciate the option of with or without.  The sauce was Carolina-style, vinegar based, with some spices we couldn’t indentify, almost a pale yellow in color and very good. The brisket was outstanding, extremely tender with a nice smoke ring and flavor.  The sausage was good, not greasy, with some unusual spices, and a little black pepper.  The casing was unusually easy to cut with the traditional Texas plastic ware. The chopped beef however was a disappointment.  The beef was more pureed  then chopped,  almost a soup with too much sauce.  We disagreed over the sides, I liked the Cole slaw, fresh and crunchy,  and thought the potato salad was bland, while “the boss” stated the potato salad was among the best we have had on the BBQ Road, but thought the Cole slaw was average at best.  We did agree the sweet tea was delicious.  Overall grade?  Luling BBQ gets a B+.  Great brisket, very good sausage, good sides, but the soupy chopped beef dragged the score down.  Would I go again? Oh yeah.

 

After lunch, we stepped back out into the Texas heat to head back to the farmer’s market area for some serious veggie/fruit/flowers shopping. While there were growers and vendors from as far away as the Houston area, we wanted a watermelon grown in Luling.  It seemed as if there are dozens of varieties of watermelons from round to the traditional shapes, patterns on the outside, textures with seeds or without, and color of fruit from yellow (which takes some getting used to but is quite good) to pale pink to red.  We settled on a “small”  melon about 10 pounds along with some luscious Stonewall (Texas) peaches and a couple of tomatoes.  Carrying these Texas-grown treats back to the car in the smothering early-afternoon  heat was a chore as we had several blocks to go.  Finally we loaded everything in the car, cranked up the AC and hit the highway for the 90 minute ride home.

 

Overall, we enjoyed the Luling Watermelon Thump.  The Texas heat can be an issue, so either go early, or come prepared with hats, sunscreen, patience and drink plenty of water.  We are already looking forward to going again next year.  After all, there is always “Thump-thing” going on in Luling!

 

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