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It's going to be a star-spangled summer for retailers, consumers

This will be a special summer as retailers and consumers alike celebrate the 200th anniversary of the Star Spangled Banner and the nation's heritage and culture. "We will stitch together a colorful patchwork of summertime Americana that includes picnics, parades and patriotic motifs," said Stephanie Barlow, director of public relations and social media for the National Watermelon Promotion Board. "We'll tap into the emotions of the present day American psyche: a deep desire to return to our roots and enjoy the sweeter things — from a cherished anthem to a juicy slice of old-fashioned watermelon."PromotionsOVAs part of its Star Spangled Banner summertime celebration, the National Watermelon Promotion Board and National Watermelon Association will co-sponsor a retail display contest featuring watermelon. (Photo courtesy of the National Watermelon Promotion Board)

The promotion will run from Memorial Day to Labor Day, the time frame tolling the unofficial beginning and end of summer. At the retail level, fruit will be stickered with a special QR code taking consumers to a dedicated splash page at watermelon.org/starspangledwatermelon. "There will be a sweepstakes, a Facebook promotion and weekly giveaways," said Barlow.

The summertime celebration will also include a retail display contest the board is co-promoting with the National Watermelon Association. "Displays can vary by size, location and be inside or outside stores," Barlow told The Produce News. "Retail managers can do whatever they want."

The displays must be set up during the time period July 1-31, and Barlow expects competition will be heated. "We've seen huge creativity skills," she said of previous years' displays.

Winners will be announced in the fall. Cash prizes will be awarded, and the grand prize winner will be awarded a trip to the national convention.

During July, Barlow said a watermelon carving contest will also be held.

The promotion board plans to hone in on hydration during the summer and let consumers know why watermelon is the perfect and healthy response to thirst. "Watermelon is going to take aim at the hydration focus, since quite obviously you can't spell watermelon without water," she stated. "At 92 percent water, watermelon boasts a refreshingly high water content, and it is also rich in vitamins and antioxidants, making it a natural power drink. From daily adequate intake to replenishing the body post-workout, Americans' hydration needs call for more water(melon). Survey findings will bring hydration issues to the forefront of consumer attitudes and perceptions, and combined with Michelle Obama's 'Drink Up' campaign, we will position watermelon as a sweet and satisfying solution for everyday hydration needs."

The board is also revamping and digitizing its Watermelon 101 Foodservice Toolkit, which is promoted at restaurants, culinary schools and other foodservice operations during watermelon's peak season. "The kit will cover tips on selection, storage and handling, yield information and -- of course -- have plenty of foodservice-sized recipes," Barlow said. "Watermelon as an ingredient has been gaining popularity year after year with consumers, and we are seeing more menu demands and successful promotions. We are going to provide more guidance and usage ideas for our favorite summertime fruit."