Melons for Moolah event raises $8K for nine local charities

Safety Harbor officials (back, l-r) Scott Long, Andy Zodrow, Joe Ayoub, Carlos Diaz, Cliff Merz, Lisa Kothe (front, l-r) Shannon Schafer, Matt Sendejo and James Poulter participated in the first annual melons for Moolah charity eating event on Sunday, July 2, 2017.

The first annual Melons for Moolah event raised $8,000 for nine Safety Harbor area charities, according to organizers.

The brainchild of City Commissioner Scott Long, the event, which featured nine city officials and employees, including Mayor Joe Ayoub and all four City Commissioners, eating as much melon as possible in 10 minutes, was held at the John Wilson Park Gazebo during Safety Harbor’s Market on Main on Sunday, July 2.

Scott Long congratulates Lisa Kothe on her victory.

Following the friendly competition, Long spoke about what is believed to be the city’s first “competitive” eating event.

“What an absolutely fantastic day in Safety Harbor,” Long, who competed in a full-body watermelon costume, told Safety Harbor Connect.

“Before this started I predicted we were gonna raise $10,000, and my wife thought I was crazy. We didn’t quite get there, but $8,000 is terrific. It was absolutely amazing how the community came together.”

Indeed, there was a solid turnout on a scorching hot Sunday summer morning, and those in the crowd were really into the action.

Children chanted for Commissioner Carlos Diaz, one group held signs, including a facial reproduction of Chamber of Commerce Chair James Poulter, and many stuffed bills of varying denominations into pastry boxes labeled with the eaters’ charity of choice.

The first annual Melons for Moolah charity eating event raised $8,000.

After the 10-minute session was over, and watermelon seeds, rinds and juice littered the tables under the Gazebo, Safety Harbor Public Library Director Lisa Kothe was declared the winner, with Commissioner Andy Zodrow finishing in second place, followed by Diaz and Long.

Lisa Kothe and her “championship trophy.”

“I was nervous,” Kothe, an avid runner who had never entered an eating event before, said.

“But hearing the bell ringing constantly and watching (Commissioner) Cliff (Merz) suffer spurred me on!”

Merz, who by admission is not a watermelon fan, took his failure to place in stride.

“It was good,” he said. “I took my time and did my best. But I haven’t eaten this much watermelon in my entire life!”

Mayor Ayoub was also into the spirit of the event.

“That was a lot of fun,” he said. “It was great to help a good cause and bring the community together.”

Scott Long dressed as a hot dog.

Long, who the following day was spotted in town wearing a hot dog costume for a centennial pub crawl, said he hopes to continue the tradition next year.

“I have an idea for next year, but I don’t want to say what it is yet,” he said while commending market director Mercedes Locke for her help facilitating the event.

“But we will be back!”

Asked if he would continue his tradition of consumable sartorial choices, Long doubled down.

“If I can dress like a watermelon and raise $8,000 for a good cause, I’d do it every day!”

Enjoy this gallery of colorful sights from the 2017 Melons for Moolah event:

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