Update: There will be no 2009 Mayor’s Tailgate Party (aka Free Watermelon Friday). Commenter Carla called Pioneer Square and was told that due to the state of the economy, the folks from Hermiston won’t make it to Portland this year 🙁
Farmers from Hermiston are on their way to Portland, for the 18th annual Mayor’s Tailgate Party. That’s just a fancy phrase for “free watermelon day” (and cantaloupes and potatoes too!). The event starts at noon Friday, August 1st at Pioneer Square.
[Former Mayor Frank] Harkenrider started the tradition in 1991, when he took his truck to Portland City Hall and gave away a load of watermelons himself.
“I had to do something to put Hermiston on the map,” he said.
Since then, the tradition has taken on a life of its own. When former Portland Mayor Vera Katz took office in 1993, she suggested the mayor’s tailgate party move downtown to Pioneer Courthouse Square.
On Hermiston’s end, the chamber of commerce, city council and more farmers got involved. While Harkenrider’s first pickup load of produce was watermelons, on Friday organizers will give away two other big Hermiston crops: cantaloupes and potatoes.
Get to Pioneer Square at 11:30 or so to get a good spot in line. Enjoy political speeches (boo!) and a watermelon seed spitting contest between Portland and Hermiston city officials (yea!). Hermiston City Councilor Jackie Meyers won last year, with a spit of 22 feet!