Where the gold began…
The famed Hearts of Gold Cantaloupe saw its start in the Swingle Bench area of Churchill County in 1911, with the careful experimentation of crossbreeding by a local man, O.J. Vannoy who had found the seeds that were originally developed in Benton Harbor, Michigan.
These luscious melons were grown here in abundance in the 1920’s and 1930’s as the demand for them in the Eastern U.S. grew; it has even been rumored that the Fallon Hearts of Gold were served in the White House! The hard rind made this variety ideal for cross country rail shipments, and the high price per crate made this a crop that’s price was worth the risk to the Fallon farmers.
Not all good things last however, as the market crashed in the late 1930’s and our festival’s namesake almost met its extinction. The once prosperous melon crop was replaced by the more stable production of alfalfa in the Lahontan Valley, and was only kept in production by a group of six Chinese immigrant families. (Thanks to them we can now enjoy our Cantaloupe a la Mode!)
The Hearts of Gold persisted and a few local families were able to revive the vine back to its former glory.
A festival emerges…
The 1980’s saw a resurgence in the local food movement and growth of farmers markets across the country.
In 1985, a group of locals saw the opportunity to bring back our beloved melon as well as to create a festival to fill the gap left by the absence of the Nevada State Fair and Country Fair. Que a “Golden Return” and the start to what has become one of Fallon’s great events to bring fun and excitement to the community every harvest season.
The tradition continues…
Today the Fallon Cantaloupe Festival & Country Fair holds the title as one of Nevada’s longest running agricultural festivals. The 2015 merge of the Fallon Cantaloupe Festival & Oasis Stampede & Country Fair has brought together a strong group of volunteers whose goal is to provide the best program of activities to Fallon each year, focusing on the educational and entertainment values of the festival. The Fallon Festival Association is in a great position to do just that and we are pleased to be able to bring these opportunities to Churchill County.