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Melon Mania

Jessica Cuffman • Sep 2, 2013 at 8:25 AM

Do you know the Melon Man?


He’s able to leap over a melon patch in one bound, is faster than the average gopher and stronger than a mighty aphid.

Or so he says.


The unidentified mystery man who first appeared at the Milan Melon Festival 13 years ago dressed in watermelon pink, a green cape, and a fruit shell helmet cannot be ignored.


For the safety of his family, the man in pink tights will not reveal his true identity. But his spirit, backed by his crew of Candy Carrying Crime Crushing Croonies, is found throughout the muskmelon and watermelon ice cream festival.


He puts on his costume for one weekend a year. He claims to be a native of the area who returns to the tiny village every Labor Day weekend, continuing the tradition he started more than a decade ago.


Those who know him have suggested he attend other festivals and make other appearances. “My loyalty lies with Milan,” he said, full-on in character Sunday afternoon, taking a moment to speak with the Register between posing for photos with other festival queens and grinning children.


He decided to start the tradition to serve the village.


“I felt there was something missing from the festival,” he said. “I felt Milan could use either a super hero or a mascot. I take care of both at once.”


The Melon Man has served as grand marshal in the parade and won top prizes for his entry. But mostly, he’s become a legend locals and the thousands of visitors who take to the streets for the three-day festival look forward to seeing.


Emily Smith, 19, and her mother Christine Smith, 51, of Berlin Heights, both know his story well — and agree with his assessment of the best ice cream flavor at the festival.


Watermelon, they said. Hands down. “It’s the closest to the fruit taste,” Smith said, while savoring a twist of a cone Sunday afternoon after the parade.


Scooping from a bowl of the watermelon flavor, Emily agreed. A friend of hers though, finishing his last bite of a muskmelon ice cream cone, disagreed. “It is amazing. That last bite of the cone, it just soaks the flavor in,” Travis Burson, 21, of Milan said. “I came back from school to be here today.”


But which is the best flavor of melon ice cream?


Depends on who you ask.


Colten Scott, 5, of Milan, scooped into a bowl Sunday afternoon. Which is best?


“Orange,” he said — he shook his head yes when asked if that meant he liked the cantaloupe flavor.


And visitor Sally Krause, 74, of Amherst, gave a novelty answer to the question. “I’m the wrong person to ask,” she said. “It’s plain vanilla. I’m not a fan of the melon.”


Milan teens Sam Proctor, 17, and Jake Horchler, 17, both said cantaloupe is the clear favorite, even as they took spoonfuls from bowls filled with both flavors.


“It’s a staple of the Edison community,” Horchler said.

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