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Thursday, Aug. 25, 2016

TV show will feature Melon Man

Thursday, March 27, 2003

SIKESTON -- The Melon Man is coming to a TV near you.

The Melon Man, also known as Bob Dwyer, a watermelon grower of Sikeston, will be featured in Home and Garden Television's "Garden Giants" at 8 p.m. Sunday.

The hour-long special is an inside look at the characters in the world of competitive gardening and their monstrous fruits and vegetables suitable for Paul Bunyan's dinner table. Dwyer is one of seven people across the nation who will be featured in the HGTV special.

"Everyone's had a good experience with watermelons," Dwyer said about his favorite fruit. "The watermelon crosses all barriers. It brings all races, all creeds and all ages together."

HGTV contacted Dwyer in the early spring last year, after viewing his Web site, www.melonman.com, which tells of Dwyer's quest for raising large watermelons. A cameraman and producer came to Sikeston at the end of August and spent two and a half days with Dwyer.

"I didn't even know who HGTV was," Dwyer admitted. "But it was a lot of fun."

Dwyer said he hasn't even seen the episode yet. The program will consist of seven people with seven-minute spots, Dwyer said. HGTV was supposed to send Dwyer a tape of the show two weeks before it aired, but he said he never received one.

"I'll be just as surprised as everyone else when the show airs," Dwyer said. "In fact, HGTV called me not too long ago and said my spot was more entertaining than the others so they're going to show it first.

He continued: "I guess they'll show whatever they can cram into seven minutes. And from what I understand, they're going to show a lot of Sikeston and Miner."

Don't expect Dwyer's fame to stop at HGTV, either. McGraw-Hill Publishing recently contacted Dwyer about using one of his pictures of a watermelon in a children's literacy textbook called, "Plenty of Plants."

For the past nine years, Dwyer, 43, has been trying to break the Guinness Book of Records for the largest watermelon. Dwyer's personal best is a 242-pound watermelon he grew in 2000.

The current world record for the largest watermelon is held by Dwyer's friend and mentor, Bill Carson of Arrington, Tenn. He raised a 262-pound watermelon in 1990 that measured 42 inches long and 64 inches in circumference.

"This year I want to break the record. I'm hoping to grow a 300-pound watermelon," Dwyer said.

The full-time Federal Express customer service agent said growing giant watermelons is strictly a hobby.

"God gave me the gift to work with plants," Dwyer said. "I've always loved gardening. I've had my hands in soil all my life. It's just a natural gift."

Growing watermelons involves a long process and begins indoors around mid-March, Dwyer said. He keeps a daily diary and refers back to it from year to year so he knows what works and what to do, he explained.

At one point during their growing season, watermelons can gain about 7 pounds a day, Dwyer noted. A 200-pound watermelon will feed at least 100 people and will generate about 1,000 seeds the size of a thumbnail.

Harvesting takes place at the end of September. Using a tape measure, Dwyer records the growth of the watermelon and if it doesn't grow for three days, it's ready to be picked, he said.

A state certified scale by the Agriculture Department of Weights and Measures is mandatory, along with a notarized affidavit documenting the event of measuring a watermelon, Dwyer said. He always has an Agricultural Extension Agent present to check the melon to validate it's sound condition, too.

Although it doesn't occur often, busting a watermelon does happen, Dwyer assured, adding that a burlap bag is used to remove the giant watermelons from the field.

"I like to use at least four because it seems when you use less than that, someone will stumble on a vine and we'll drop it," Dwyer explained.

If the timing and watermelon size is right, Dwyer said sometimes he enters his watermelon in contests, but he admitted he grows the watermelons more for himself and personal satisfaction than anything else.

Dwyer said he usually donates any watermelons under 200 pounds to charities. On the other hand, he keeps anything over 200 pounds, which sometimes results in a watermelon crawl.

"I'll usually have a party and invite everyone who helped me during the year," he said.

And sometimes Dwyer spots people sticking the watermelon seeds in their pockets, possibly hoping they, too, might grow giant watermelons one day.

"But," Dwyer laughed. "That's OK, I don't really mind. Giving is part of growing the melons."