Hempstead is a city in Waller County, Texas, United States. The community, located at the junctions of U.S. Highway 290, Texas State Highway 6, and Texas State Highway 159, is around fifty miles northwest of Downtown Houston. The population was 4,691 at the 2000 census. It is the county seat of Waller County. The town has grown in recent years because of its relative closeness to Houston along U.S. Highway 290. The current economy is based on county government, shipping, and a large auto dealership which closed its doors in 2009. Hempstead is famous for its watermelon crop, and until the 1940s the town was the top shipper of watermelons in the United States. Billy DiIorio was known as the Watermelon King and Angelina DiIorio was known as the Watermelon Queen. Both resided in Hempstead, Texas. The town holds an annual Watermelon Festival in July.