The City of Howell has written the definitive playbook for How to Muck Up a Melon Fest.
I hope I’m wrong, but I see scant chance that this event can be salvaged in any meaningful way. And that’s a shame for small businesses – ranging from melon growers to the downtown businesses that politicians fawn over even as they abuse them.
Perhaps the Howell Rec department will cave to the city’s pressure and agree to the demands that it shut down the popular beer tent by 4 p.m. on Saturday, supposedly because high tensions from social media posts, the presence of a Drag Queen Bingo fundraiser, and alcohol could lead to violence.
I have no idea how the Melon Fest budget looks, but I suspect it relies heavily on the beer tent’s nighttime revenue. I wouldn’t blame the rec department if it threw up its hands and cancelled the whole shebang. Ironically, the only event left standing would be the bingo event that spurred the hissy fit by past and likely future political candidate Meghan Reckling, who mixes up a fine concoction of manufactured outrage.
Even if some sort of resolution is reached between the city and the recreation department, the damage may be done. This is not the type of publicity that will benefit the Melon Fest.
People may already have written off the festival and made other plans. Some already believe it is cancelled (it’s not, but it could be). Others have complained that Drag Queen Bingo has been banned. It hasn’t. It’s moved to a larger venue and it’s still a sellout.
Besides, if you are a prudent person who listens to city officials – and I know there is a contradiction there – you might have second thoughts about venturing downtown at all. After all, the top people in city government have warned that there could be marauding gangs of drunken protesters roaming the fair streets of Howell. It’s almost child abuse to bring young people into such a potentially hostile environment.
Howell officials didn’t start this mess. That honor goes to Reckling, despite her laughable attempts to walk back her Drag Queen’s gambit, as well as shameful attempts by her defenders to find a scapegoat in the recreation department.
But Howell officials didn’t have to bow to her pressure. She’s not a city resident. She doesn’t live within the recreation department boundaries. She made a silly, self-serving post on Facebook, which is hardly a unique occurrence on social media. I may have made a few myself.
The City Council and city staff are far from innocent. They could have ignored her. Even better, they could have made it clear that they weren’t going to be influenced by bullies. But that would have required balls. Not as big as melons, mind you, but a least a working pair. Sadly, there were none to be found at City Hall.
One can only hope that the Melon Fest doesn’t disappear as well.