The 60th annual Milan Melon Festival will open at 8 a.m. Saturday with the cutest baby contest and will run through 6 p.m. Monday.
This year, after a financial scandal was revealed just two months ago, the festival is choosing to look to the future, committee chairman John Lewis said.
“We’re putting past in the past,” he added. “We’re going to be fine. We just want to make it better and better every year. So we’re just going to be focusing on this year and then see what the future brings.”
When Lewis was asked if the committee was OK financially, or largely unaffected by the scandal, he declined to comment. However, he said the Milan Melon Festival will continue to provide plenty of entertainment for years to come.
“We’re planning on getting new members on the committee and getting getting more people involved,” Lewis said. “We’re going to get a good group of committee people to lead this.”
The former secretary and president of the Milan Melon Festival are accused of mishandling thousands of the committee’s dollars. At the end of July, an Erie County grand jury indicted ex-board secretary Aaron W. Timbs, 47, and his wife, Tracey L. Timbs, 47, of 52 Ranch Road, Milan, on one count each of complicity to grand theft. Tracey, who served as president, also was charged with tampering with evidence.
Police received the initial complaint Nov. 11, 2016 and eventually turned the case over to the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation (BCI).
“Both Aaron and Tracey resigned their respective positions right after, I believe, the initial investigation started,” Milan Police Chief Bob Meister said in a previous interview. “(BCI) came up with a figure of around $18,000 (was missing); we suspect that number is a lot higher. During the course of the investigation, records were destroyed.”
According to the BCI report, Aaron Timbs reportedly released some documents to festival board members, but his wife is accused of failing to do so. Also, a BCI investigator said he determined “all of the documents controlled by Tracey were either thrown away or burnt” because “she was mad at the members of the festival” and didn’t want the board members to have them. BCI investigators confirmed these allegations with Tracey Timbs’ father and his girlfriend.
New festival features
Lewis said this year’s festival has several new features added as the committee tries to refocus the event to be geared toward children and families.
“We’re expecting good weather and we’ve got a lot of stuff going on,” he said.
“New this year is the kiddie tractor pull — that’s back and we’re having a petting zoo. That’s going to be in the square and it’ll be there for only one day. Jumbo Island Zoo will be there Saturday, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. They’re going to have the little farm animals and I heard there was going to be a couple larger animals too.”
Lewis said the committee wanted to bring the petting zoo back after a 10-year hiatus because members said it would be “a good thing for kids and families.”
“That’s what we want — to make the festival more geared to the kids and to the family.”
In fact, the $20 ride wristbands, which only used to be offered at that price on “Kid’s Day,” Sunday, now will be offered throughout the duration of the festival.
“Then there’s food, the vendors (and) ice cream,” Lewis said. “That’s what everybody comes for — the ice cream. This is the one place and the one time of year that you can buy melon ice cream.”
And on top of that, there’s the plenty of shopping opportunities for festival-goers. Shoppers get a unique experience and the local businesses benefit from the increased foot-traffic too.
“I think our village has about 1400 people in it,” Lewis said. “Then you get anywhere from about 15,000 to 20,000 people I think — that will make lot of local businesses happy.”