Watermelon Stampede surges back for 44th annual race

MUSCATINE, Iowa–After a year, and a race unlike any other, Watermelon Stampede organizers and participants alike look forward to returning to some of the race’s regular traditions and adding some new elements as well. Aug. 20 and 21, both kids and adults will get the chance to run in one of the region’s oldest races and enjoy this classic Muscatine tradition.

As in years past, the Watermelon Stampede will kickoff with the Children’s Watermelon Stampede Aug. 20. Children up to age 12 can run in a race tailored to their age, with those four and under running a 100 yard dash, kids five and six running a single lap, and kids between seven and 12 running a progressively longer distance and competing in male and female specific races. All finishers will receive ribbons, kids age seven and up who place in the top six in their race will receive medals, and the top male and female finishers will win a fresh watermelon. Because of ongoing renovations at Muscatine Community Stadium, the Children’s Watermelon Stampede will take place on the Muscatine High School turf field behind the tennis courts.

On Aug. 21, the Watermelon Stampede five and 10 kilometer races will start at 8 a.m. from the corner of Fourth Street and Iowa Avenue. Though last year’s race featured a staggered start time to allow for social distancing, this year’s race will return to form with all racers beginning at the same time. Just like in the children’s Stampede, the top placing male and female runners in each age bracket, as long as 25 lucky drawing winners, will receive a fresh watermelon from Steve Spies farm on Muscatine Island. The top three places in each event will receive medals as well. New this year, eight champions will also earn a special prize organizers will announce the day of the race. To celebrate each of these accomplishments, race officials will hold an awards ceremony at the end of the races.

With the Watermelon Stampede just days away, race director Dell Wagner cannot wait to get the race up and going at full capacity. “We were one of the few events that went on last year,” he observed hoping that this year’s race will offer, “a return to normalcy.” He anticipates the number of participants will return to pre-pandemic levels too.

If you would like to run in the 2021 Watermelon Stampede, Wagner encourages you to go online and register either by completing or submitting the registration form and paying online, or by printing off the registration form and mailing it to Dell Wagner at P.O. Box 45 Muscatine, IA 52761. The Muscatine Running Club, which hosts the race each year, will also accept late registrations directly before the race and the Children’s Stampede.