The Milan Melon Festival

When I think of Ohio I see its geography laid out like a menu where each city represents a particular food or dish. This may be the result of my 15 months in Italy where everyone knows that radicchio comes from Treviso, red onions comes from Tropea, prosciutto comes from Parma, and ossobuco comes from Milan (mih-LAHN).

My mind works basically the same when I think of Ohio and its festivals, connecting popcorn to Marion, banana splits to Wilmington, sauerkraut to Waynesville, hamburgers to Akron, and melons to Milan (MY-lan).

Sixty miles west of Cleveland, Milan is the birthplace of Thomas Edison, whose childhood home is still standing and available for tours. The quaint village of 1,400 is picturesque with its antique shops, museums, many 19th Century homes and businesses, and a popular melon festival that brings in more than 50,000 visitors over the Labor Day Weekend.

Now celebrating its 57th year, the Melon Festival takes place primarily at the Milan Village Square, where an entertainment stage, craft market, spinning rides, and ring tosses all fi t snugly near the square, providing a compact cornucopia of things to do. Therefore, it’s advisable for festival-goers to peek around trees, look across the street, or keep an eye peeled for signs to make sure there’s not a little bit more festival to see.

In terms of the melon theme, there are melon competitions (i.e. eating, carving) and festival apparel. And, with a watchful eye, you can find watermelon snow cones or watermelon slices at a local church booth. You can even purchase entire watermelons and cantaloupes at the watermelon-painted trailer.

The food choices are especially impressive at the festival—you can get a burger from Oh Boy (Elyria), Cedar Point fries from Berardi’s (Huron), and the trademarked, cream-filled Snoogles from Kiedrowski’s Bakery (Amherst) for the perfect meal. This doesn’t even include the perch sandwiches, cabbage and noodles, brats, and homemade selections from the many other booths.

But when it comes down to it, most festival-goers know why they really come here—they want the ice cream.

Every year, Toft’s Ice Cream makes watermelon sherbet and cantaloupe/muskmelon ice cream exclusively for the festival. You can even have the ice cream served in a half cantaloupe bowl and eat the two together (I seriously recommend this). And, since the festival has the rights to the ice cream, you won’t be able to find it anywhere else.

Nope. You’ll just have to drive to Milan like everyone else.