FALLON - Hearts o' Gold cantaloupes - once prized in fine hotels across America - are the featured attraction at this weekend's annual melon festival celebrating the Fallon area's edible claim to fame.
''The way things are going now, it looks like there will be plenty of melons for the festival,'' said Rick Lattin, whose Lattin Farms always plants one late crop just for the festival.
The Hearts o' Gold thrive in the Fallon area and were sought a century and a half ago by restaurants in San Francisco and on the East Coast that were looking for unique delicacies to offer their patrons.
Cantaloupes need about 90 days from planting to harvest, but Fallon's cool nights allow the melons to stay on the vines longer and develop a higher sugar content than the average store-bought variety, Lattin said.
''I don't know if that's scientific or not, but that's what we think,'' he added.
This will be the 15th year for the Fallon event and one that promises a bumper crop, unlike years past.
In 1996, an early summer hail storm left much of the crop in tatters. Then a spell of cool, wet weather hit just as the surviving plants were maturing, leaving growers with barely enough fruit for the fair.
This year looks a lot better, Lattin said.
''We planted a late field, which is ripening a little early, but it should hold out,'' he said.
Workman's Farms also is selling the melons, but promises plenty for the festival, according to Vickie Detomasi.
Along with the golden orbs themselves, people can try cantaloupe ice cream and daiquiris.
Entertainment includes The Grass Roots band, country singer Pamela Ward, a variety of other bands and a hypnotist, karaoke and mud volleyball. Another attraction is cantaloupe bowling.
''We try to make the festival better each year,'' said co-organizer Donna Wassmuth. ''The goal is to make the festival more fun each time.''
The event runs through Monday. Admittance is $5 for adults and $3 for children under 12.