GWA Welcomes 270+ to Annual Conference, Crowns New Queen
Wednesday, February 7, 2018
The Georgia Watermelon Association (GWA) recently held its annual meeting in St. Simons, Ga. where they hosted more than 270 attendees. The GWA meeting has come to mark the start of the new year for watermelon industry members by providing education, networking and community as the season begins.
This year’s conference education included speakers from the University of Georgia, Virginia Tech and North Carolina State University on the latest research on diseases, watermelon pollinizer comparisons and mini watermelon cultivar evaluations as well as information on the Food Safety Modernization Act.
In addition to education, the conference holds an annual live auction to raise money for the upcoming year of programming for the association. Among items like coolers, watermelon themed clothing and jewelry, the GWA also auctions off loads of watermelons between buyers and growers, and generates roughly $6000 per load to the association.
For the past four years, the GWA Board of Directors has voted to take funds from a load to donate to a charity. Previous recipients of these funds have included the Paul Anderson Youth Home, the Winship Cancer Institute, the Haven House and the Lighthouse Children’s Home in Florida. This year $16,000 was raised from a donated load. These funds will be gifted to the Pregnancy Care Center-Tift Area which is a mission-oriented women's clinic dedicated to erasing the need for abortions and serving pregnant women in need. Executive Director Samantha Kilgore said that giving back to the community is an important part of the GWA culture. “I am proud to be a part of an association that values the importance of donating to causes that are larger than just the watermelon industry,” she said.
This year the GWA auction raised over $300,000 - an all-time high for the association. These generous contributions will assist with GWA programming in 2018.
In addition to education, the conference held a queen contest to select the next representative for the association. The selected “watermelon queen” receives a scholarship and spends the year traveling the state and the nation promoting Georgia’s watermelon industry and the consumption of the commodity. Over the course of the weekend, contestants are interviewed individually by judges and asked to give a speech and answer an on-stage question in front of conference attendees.
The winner of this year’s contest and newly crowned 2018 Georgia Watermelon Queen is Savannah Hartley of Glenwood, Georgia. Hartley will graduate in May from Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College with a Bachelor’s degree in Agricultural Communications. When asked how she felt about being named the 2018 Watermelon Queen, Savannah said she was more than excited. "When I think about being named the 2018 Georgia Watermelon Queen, it brings me such joy. It is truly an honor to represent not only the watermelon industry, but my watermelon family as well. I know this year will be one I will never forget, and I cannot wait to advocate for an industry so dear to my heart!"
The first runner up was Ashley Rodgers, Oglethorpe, Ga, and the second runner up was Emily Stewart Peters from Valdosta, Ga. The 2018 runner-ups will be called upon throughout the year to represent the association at promotional and marketing events.
For more information on the Georgia watermelon association, visit www.georgiawatermelonassociation.org or call 706-845-8575.