Melons On My Mind
Those of you living in big and sophisticated cities will be astonished to learn that those of us living in more-or-less rural areas of America, get all worked-up about summer festivals. It may seem sad to you, even pathetic, but, alas, it is true.
So far, this summer, in my neck-of-the-woods, we’ve had the Cherry Festival, the Strawberry Festival, The St. Alphonsus Festival, The St. Joseph’s Festival, The Bratwurst Festival, The Sweet Corn Festival, The Blueberry Festival, and many others, which I’ve attended, but have now forgotten.
But, the Super Bowl of Festivals here in Ohio, happens this very weekend in beautiful downtown Milan, Ohio, where they will spend the entire weekend frolicking and celebrating! And the whole shebang is about melons. It’s Melon Festival time, folks! Yes indeedy! The biggest festival of them all is right around the corner, and the whole area around here is all atwitter with excitement. I bet you never thought folks could get all worked up over melons, did you? We’re all worked-up! Bring on the melons!
I’ve got melons on my mind, I tells ya!
Everywhere I go, I see posters, billboards and signs (tacked to telephone poles) reminding me that this is the big weekend. The weekend when the sleepy little village of Milan, Ohio (population 1445) comes alive with festivities to rival New Orleans, New York, San Francisco, San Antonio, and Miami. Swarms of jet-setters and party animals will descend on Milan this weekend to celebrate melons. They expect that over 100,000 revelers will fill the town square over the weekend – dancing, partying, and living it up – and all under the watchful eye of the much celebrated Milan Police Department (MPD) who oversee the biggest speed trap east of the Mississippi.
Let’s get the melons off our mind for just a minute and discuss this speed trap. Melons are big this weekend (no pun intended), but the rest of the year, the only two things famous about Milan is that Thomas Alva Edison was born here (and quickly moved away), and the Milan speed trap.
Yes it’s one of the most efficient speed traps in the nation and it’s run by the fine men and women of the Milan Police Department. Since Milan has little industry, hardly any people and thus hardly any tax revenue, this speed trap raises much-needed funds that keep the city and its fifty antique shops going until another Melon Festival rolls around when the village will once again put on gala regalia, The village will be awash in melons and cash from hungry visitors who chow down on various and sundry (and expensive) festival-food – and park in No Parking zones ($50 fine, please!).
By now, I’m almost sure that those of you looking for a fun party this long Labor Day Weekend, are wondering how you can get to this festival. Well, I’m hear to tell you that it’s not hard. If you’re flying in, fly into Cleveland Hopkins International Airport, rent a car, take I-480 West to the Ohio Turnpike. Take the Ohio Turnpike west to Exit 250 and go south about 3 miles. Don’t worry. You can’t miss the festival. There will cars parked (illegally – $35.00 fine please!) for miles on both sides of U.S. 250. When you see this line of cars, you’re there. Just be careful you don’t park along U.S. 250. Drive into Milan, and you’ll find many of the gracious villagers will let you park on their front lawns (really!) for a small fee of $15 to $20. If you’re driving in from the east or west, just find the Ohio Turnpike and get off at Exit 250. If you’re coming from the north just act like you’re going to Cedar Point (Sandusky, Ohio), but instead of going north to the Lake, go south to the Melon Festival. If you’re driving in from the south, good luck.
Accommodations might be a problem – and you can’t stay with me so banish that thought from your mind right now! There are no hotels or motels in Milan. They’ve got ordinances against strangers hanging around in Milan overnight. You can’t sleep in the park or the MPD will bust you and you’ll be sleeping in the Milan jail, which, I hear, is worst than many jails in Romania.
Not to worry! There are plenty of motels within ten miles. My advice: Stay somewhere south, east, or west of Milan where you can get a room for under a hundred bucks. If you’re thinking of taking in Cedar Point and the Lake Erie Islands while you’re in the area – forget it. Rooms in and around Sandusky this weekend are SOLD OUT and if you can find one, it will cost you around $450.00. If you can afford that much for a room, why not spend it more wisely and send it to me? I could use it at the Melon Festival to buy an ear of sweetcorn and, a funnel cake, a buffalo burger, and some melon ice cream. The tab for all that would be about $150. I’d also use some of it to try my luck playing some of those games. I’ve always wanted a stuffed giraffe for my bed. And a few extra beers wouldn’t be bad either. Don’t worry, I don’t plan on driving. I’ll walk.
Speaking of the games at the Milan Melon Festival: If you have kids or grandkids who’ve never seen a gypsy, bring them to Milan this weekend. (Am I still allowed to say “gypsy”?) The gypsies run the games and they are easy to spot because they all have doo rags on their heads. (And I’m not kidding!) So bring the kiddies and show them a slice of Americana while you enjoy an ice cold slice of melon.
By now, you’re probably wringing your hands in anticipation and wanting me to tell you what you can expect when you arrive at the Melon Melon Festival. It’s almost too exciting to write. But I’ll try.
First of all, my favorite part of the Melon Festival (aside from all the gorgeous melons) is the beer tent. I’m a guy. And guys have a thing about beer tents. I’ve noticed lately though that a lot more ladies are hanging around in the beer tent. And some of them aren’t bad — there are not a lot of good-looking women in Milan most of the time, but there are plenty at the Melon Festival.
Each year it seems that more and more ladies like the beer tent. And while I’d really like to believe that this has something to do with me being there, I’m sure it does not. I think the ladies are there because all the guys hang out there. I don’t think it has anything to do with me – even though I’m a guy, I’m too old to be a lady-magnet. And, yes, it’s a very difficult thing for me to admit. But sometimes you have to stare reality in the eye and accept the truth of what is staring back a you.
But though I’m old, I still love beer.
If you’re not one to hang around beer tents with a bunch of half-drunk, party animals (myself excluded) you can play all sorts of chance games. Like “Knock A Doll”, “The Fish Pond”, “The Birthday Game”, “Knock Down The Wooden Milk Bottles” and tons more. All run by the aforementioned gypsies. You can win great prizes if you’re lucky; prizes like cool replicas of Zippo Lighters, plastic flashlights, bike reflectors, and Coca-Cola playing cards.
The Melon King
If you don’t like games, but want to gamble where you can win really big cash prizes, you’ll love the never-ending bingo game above the Town Hall. All day and all night you can play Bingo for just 25 cents a game. And if you’re the first to holler “BINGO” you can win up to $12.00! That’s more than enough to buy a high-in-transfat, deep-fried turkey drumstick and a high-fructose-corn-syrup-laden-Coke (that’ll run you about $6.00 U.S.D.).
BREAKING NEWS! Sorry folks, no bingo this year — too hot.
But, let’s get to the real reason why you came to the Melon Festival. The MELONS! Lovely melons everywhere you look! Big, tasty, juicy melons!
Visit the Cantaloupe Wagon at the south-end of the square and meet the Millers of Miller’s Melons. You call them cantaloupes, but we call them muskmelons, but whatever you call them, they are skuzzy looking on the outside and nice and orange on the inside. Yummy! Juicy, sweet, and delicious, served right off the Miller’s Melon Wagon. Dig in and let the juice run down your chin and all over that nice clean shirt!
(A little note: Did you know the term “seedy” comes from this? Indeed. Everyone who eats melons from the Wagon, ends up with melon juice and seeds on their clothing. Hence, the term “seedy” was born.
And…the melons are hauled to the festival on wagons lined with hay. And if you picked up a few pieces of hay from the Wagon that got mixed up with the melons, you would become a “hayseed”. It’s interesting to learn these terms came to be – and that Milan is the source of “seedy” and “hayseed”. Interesting huh?)
Finally, you’ll want to try the various melon treats available throughout the square. You can have a melon milkshake, a melon ice cream cone or a rich, frozen chocolate-covered melon slice. If you’re adventurous, you might want to sink your seedy teeth into some deep-fried watermelon or muskmelon slices. Or feast on a melon burger covered with ketchup, mustard and onions and served with hot, greasy melon fries. Try some melon mustard, melon pickles, and melon pancakes too. Or if you’ve got a competitive nature, enter the Official Muskmelon Eating Contest; you just might make the Guinness Book of World Records … if you can eat more than fifty-two muskmelons in twelve minutes. Alka-Seltzer is provided to all contestants – free of charge – by the gracious Milan Village Council (you think I’m kidding, but I’m not).
The Milan Melon Festival is held in the town square of Milan, Ohio. It’s pretty small. Fifty or sixty people could mill about rather comfortably in the town square at the same time. At Melon Festival time, there are over 5000 folks, many who never heard of soap and deodorant, crowded in the square…some hanging from the roof of of the stately gazebo which normally sits abandoned, smack dab in the middle of town square.
I hope I’ve painted an inviting picture of the Melon Festival for you and that by now you can understand why I have melons on my mind! Everyone around here is chomping at the bit waiting for this weekend to arrive. We’re crazy about melons! If you come to Milan, Ohio this weekend, and you’re looking for me, try the beer tent first, that’s probably where I’ll be: Drinking beer, reveling in the festive atmosphere – with melons on my mind!
By-the-way: The cops in Milan are busy (there are only 3 of them) controlling the thousands of folks packed like sardines in town square, all trying to get a glimpse or a taste of melons. You can speed through Milan this coming weekend as the world-famous Milan Speed Trap is closed during the Melon Festival. And if you don’t like huge crowds of people trying to move around in a small town square in 90-degree heat, speeding right through Milan might be a good thing for you to do.
I don’t care about being squashed (no pun intended) by the mass of humanity that will pack the square in Milan, Ohio this weekend. It’s Labor Day Weekend and…
I’ve got melons on my mind!