I love small-town festivals. I grew up in a town that celebrated its Bicycle Days every summer. Marci and I had our first date at the Bucyrus Bratwurst Festival. And I’m always on the lookout for other interesting observances that celebrate some aspect of local history or culture on an annual basis. These small-town festivals are a place for all the locals to see and be seen by other members of the community. But they’re also a source of entertainment and economic activity for both insiders and outsiders. So, ever since I heard my friend Bri talk about the Milan Melon Festival, in her hometown, I’ve wanted to visit. And this year the stars finally aligned, and we got a group of people from our H2O Centennial Life Group to go on a road trip together to see the Milan Melon Festival for ourselves.
I don’t know why they center their local festival around melons in Milan. I imagine the climate could support the growth of various melons. But it doesn’t seem like melons are grown or distributed on any kind of industrial scale in the area. So I’m guessing it’s just a fun, summertime theme. Plus, the words “Milan” and “melon” go together nicely. I don’t know. I didn’t really press the issue.
The melons serve as a central organizing theme, more than anything. The town crowns local high school students the Melon Prince and Melon Princess. Local home owners are encouraged to decorate their houses, with a contest to see who could make their place the most melonny (melonish? melonesque? melonial?). And they serve melon treats on the village green: watermelon sherbet… cantaloupe ice cream… a watermelon frappe… a scoop of vanilla ice cream served inside of a cantaloupe…
Honestly, though, I wish the Milan Melon Festival organizers would have gone further. Melon rides… melon helmets for sale… painting the town crosswalks to look like slices of watermelon… There are opportunities for improvement, for sure. However, I mostly just enjoyed the festival for what it was: a lovely example of a local festival, with friends.
I had a watermelon frappe and an ice cream cone with a watermelon-cantaloupe twist. I really wanted to buy a Milan Melon Festival T-shirt, too, but they didn’t have the design I liked on a color of shirt that I liked. Even so, I think we had a pretty enjoyable experience at the Milan Melon Festival. We cheered Luke on as he played the Ball Toss Game. We listened to an excellent playlist curated by Meg on the ride there and back. And we even got to finish our visit to Milan with a quick stop at Bri’s house.
All in all, the Milan Melon Festival was a great way to close out the Labor Day holiday weekend. I’m really glad that we made this happen. And I hope that there will be other quirky small-town festivals to explore in the years to come, as well.