Crowds enjoy Howell melons, entertainment and more at annual festival

Crowds descended on downtown Howell for the city's long-running summer festival Howell Melon Festival. The star and original inspiration for the 59-year-old festival is a special variety of melon cultivated by local farmers for decades. Some visitors and participants said the chance to buy Howell melons and consume Howell melon-flavored ice cream, alcoholic drinks and other melon-themed eats was among the main reasons they come. 

"I love the melons and the melon ice cream," said Howell resident Dave LaFond, 74. "Personally, I take that melon ice cream and I put Hersey's special dark chocolate on it. It's to die for." LaFond said he has been to the festival nearly every year since moving to town 15 years ago and that he also comes for the live music and street vendors.

Howell brewery Aberrant Ales used 100 pounds of Howell melons to concoct a limited edition white IPA melon beer. Brewery owners Clark and Lisa Gill debuted the special beer Thursday night under a festival tent on Center Street, which also featured Howell melon wine made by Howell's Mainstreet Winery. 

"Growing up in Brighton, when I was a kid, I remember coming to Melon Fest," Lisa Gill said. "Having Grand River shut down and everybody being down here, there is just such a positive vibe and everybody is excited, and it's fantastic for the businesses." She said when she gets breaks from working during the festival, she enjoys walking up and down the streets to check out vendors. 

Addison Doyle just moved to town and was excited to check out the festival for the first time with Nikhila Shankar, of Whitmore Lake. 

"I heard the Melon Fest is supposed to be the biggest festival, so I thought it would be cool to check it out, and I've never had a Howell melon," Doyle, 32, said. "I think we're mostly concentrating on the food and trying all the different things that will be around."

Shankar, 27, said it was also her first visit to the festival. "I looked at the website and I saw there is Melon ice cream, so that's what I want to try," she said. 

This year's festival featured about 100 food, business, non-profit and arts and crafts vendors; live music and performances; the Canine Stars Stunt Dog Show; science, technology, engineering, art and math activities for kids; inflatable bounce houses; Animal Magic shows featuring wild animals and much more.