By Jessica Mathews/

Organizers say the Howell Melon Festival will go on but all alcohol sales have been cancelled in connection with the event.

The Howell Area Parks and Recreation Authority received a notice from the City following a special Council meeting last Friday that it had to amend its civic event application to close the beer tent by 4pm next Saturday or the entire festival would be cancelled. That statement and action from city officials were said to have come as surprise to the organization.

Executive Director Tim Church said they acknowledge the City’s concerns regarding public safety and to keep the Melon Festival going this year, HAPRA will be amending their current civic event applications and canceling festival tent alcohol sales completely this year. The sales of beer and wine help HAPRA raise extra funds to offset the overall cost of the festival each year. By eliminating the festival tent Saturday night, he says they would not break even with current expenses due to the unexpected change. Therefore, he said they’ll need to make other changes to festival – stressing it is more than beer and politics but about supporting local businesses and local farmers.

Church said they understand and acknowledge concerns raised regarding other entertainment choices but feel they’ve addressed concerns for Drag Queen Bingo and it will continue as planned as a standalone, private event at the Historic Howell Theater. Church says they’ll be working with local agencies and doing their part to ensure the safety of participants and visitors, adding HAPRA stands by their previous statement of wanting to provide a safe and inclusive environment for all who live and visit the Howell Area.

Church noted this year’s event was already scaled way down to the “Mini Melon” and is not taking place on the traditional stage of Grand River. To help reduce the financial undertaking and loss of the festival tent revenue, HAPRA will be condensing times and activities. Next Friday, Church says they’ll continue to hold the traditional Howell Melon Run starting at 6pm. The festival will then take place next Saturday from noon to 6pm on the Livingston County Courthouse lawn. Events will include live bands, games for the kids, a mom2mom sale and other fun activities for free.

A release issued by the City stated the decision to amend the Mini-Melon Festival and to suspend the downtown Social District on Saturday are proactive measures taken to ensure a safe and enjoyable event for all and they ask that everyone put aside their political and social views to enjoy this Howell tradition.

More information is available through the link. The press releases issued by HAPRA and the City area attached.