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Controversial state vegetable watermelon will be celebrated Saturday at a family-friendly event in Rush Springs

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A minor controversy erupted in 2007 when the Oklahoma Senate declared the watermelon the official state vegetable, as most people thought it was a fruit.

But Wanda MacGregor, festival chair for Saturday's 66th annual Watermelon Festival in Rush Springs, said she'll just go along with the Senate.

"Oklahoma deemed the watermelon the state vegetable, so who am I to argue?" she said. "But on the other hand, it is sweet like a fruit. Either way you slice it, it's a wonderfully nutritious food."

And the Watermelon Festival is all about honoring that delicious, fruity vegetable.

MacGregor said that 25,000 people attend the festival each year, which means a lot of out-of-towners are coming into the small town " population of about 1,250 " an hour southwest of the metro.

The family activities include a 5K run, seed-spiting contest, watermelon auction and other festival entertainment, like kids' performances and contests, car shows, arts and crafts vendors, and live music.

"Every festival, at 4 p.m., we start the free watermelon feed," MacGregor said. "I tell you this because my fondest moment happens by 4:15, when I see parents taking their small children down to the spring and watch those little ones playing in the cool water, trying to wash the watermelon juice off their little hands and faces. It just seems like a perfect Norman Rockwell moment."

The free festivities kick off at 7:30 a.m. Saturday with the 5K run, and continue throughout the day, capped off with the Watermelon Festival queen coronation at 8 p.m.

For more information, call (580) 476-2338. "Joshua Boydston

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