January 11, 2022
By Mike Kruzman and Jon King / [email protected]
The Town of Howell is partnering with several local organizations to bring this year’s Melon Festival back to its roots, including a return of the Parade on the Grand River.
City council voted unanimously on Monday to make the festival a city event, as it was before the Howell Area Parks and Recreation Authority took over in the mid-2000s. HAPRA will still be involved. , but as one of the City’s five collaborative partners in an effort to revitalize the event. The Downtown Development Authority, the Howell Historical Society, the Howell Chamber of Commerce and the Howell Area Fire Authority will also partner with the City.
According to a memo to city council and the mayor of city manager Erv Suida, wrote that the operation of events such as the melon festival continues to be a struggle as many unknowns and changed standards have resulted in delays in bookings, a lack of volunteer work and cost increases across the board. All of this can make it difficult for a single organization to plan, manage and execute a successful event while generating enough funds to cover these costs or even generate income.
Bringing back a City event, Suida said he was excited about what it all means. He told WHMI they are looking to host an event that goes back to its roots and celebrates the Howell farming community. Suida said they remembered, recognized and honored the first Howell melon growers. As part of this year’s celebrations, they hope to showcase one of the last Howell melon growers.
Jordan Jones is the Special Events Manager at HAPRA and said it’s time to move on and move on. She said that Melon Fest has turned into a fun festival, but has received a lot of outside resources. Jones, like Suida and Council, wants to highlight the resources they have in the city and surrounding municipalities.
DDA Director Kate Litwin said Melon Fest historically had the positive impact of bringing people to the city, but was also difficult for downtown businesses as Grand River would be closed and filled with tents. and outside sellers. Discussions at the meeting revealed that the City will aim to keep Grand River open as much as it can, potentially closing it only for the return of the parade, while moving much of the activity to side streets. Sidewalk sales could return for the event. Along with this and the return of the parade, there was talk of keeping the big hits with the residents, like the beer tent, the 5K run, the car show, the Corn Hole tournament, etc.
The return of the Melon Fest as a city event will cost the city money, however, with estimates based on 2019 numbers projecting the cost of the event to around $ 9,100. The City paid 50% of this amount, leaving the estimated additional cost for 2022 to be around $ 5,000. City council and staff discussed continued sponsorship as a way to get what they could get back.
The move follows controversy that derailed last year’s event, when a planned fundraiser for Drag Queen Bingo was met with opposition from Meghan Reckling, Chairman of the County Republican Party. Livingston, who said she believes this is not in keeping with the family nature of the festival. The ensuing controversy forced the city to cancel the beer tent and downsize the event.