Howell Melon Festival Almost Cancelled Over Drag Queen Bingo
While shows like "RuPaul's Drag Race" and events like drag queen brunches are giving drag queens more of a spotlight in society, there's always situations like this that make you scratch your head and wonder why people can't just let others enjoy things.
I'm not going to get too political here but as someone who grew up in small-town Michigan and moved to Grand Rapids, somewhere a little more "progressive", things like what's happened in Howell over their annual Melon Festival shows there is still a long way to go when it comes to people accepting people who are different from them.
The Return of the Melon Festival
To understand what's happened here, we first have to understand that the Melon Festival is a big deal for the people and businesses in Howell.
That's why when it was able to come back this year after being cancelled in 2020 due to COVID-19, you would think they would be ready to do whatever it takes to make it happen in 2021.
However, that was until the apparently "scary" (I'm assuming here) Drag Queen Bingo was an event added to the festival.
According to FOX 47, the reactions to the event being added were mixed but many were not very pleasant with critical comments going viral and people fearing it would bring a "sinful lifestyle" to Howell...
It all got, apparently, so "controversial" they decided to up-and-cancel the festival as a whole.
Yeah, you read that right. Drag queens hosting a bingo event got people riled up enough they would rather not have the festival as a whole.
A Compromise Carries On Traditions
The Melon Festival has been tradition in Howell for 60 years and I'm assuming not much has changed over the past six decades for this to not be an issue?
However, there is still hope as FOX 47 reports local business owners stepped in to help make sure the festival still happens this year...and still includes the drag queens!
According to FOX 47, a compromise was reached where Drag Queen Bingo, a 21-and-up event, was moved to the Howell Theater. It is now sold out!
“My wife has gone to one," Keith Ridge, owner of Howell's Black Iron Coffee said. "It’s a hilarious comedy show with bingo, not an indoctrination.”
So where's the compromise here?
Well, city leaders allowed the Drag Queen Bingo to take place but in response, cancelled the beer tents and social districts.
Supporters Say Howell City Leaders "Still Don't Get It"
As an outsider, who loves and supports drag queens, this is confusing to me why having an inclusive event like this means there can't also be booze?
Even the statement FOX 47 shared by Howell city leaders doesn't make to not only me but others in the community:
The action taken was not clouded by an opinion, does not take a social side, was not motivated by politics rather a discussion-based purely on the concern over safety. As we have learned from examples displayed after various sporting events that involve high emotions, large crowds and alcohol, things can take a drastic turn quickly.
To me, not only does this imply that the LGBTQ+ community and events that support them are a source of violence, but even simpler than that same logic could be applied to really any event that involves alcohol.
It also could discourage attendance to the festival, as Sonny Duke points out, "That plants that seed where someone’s going to oh, we’re going to go there because there’s going to be an uproar."
All in all, it is sad to me that people are willing to just let a festival that is so important to the local businesses, especially this year as they recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, be cancelled when challenged with a little bit of diversity.
Everyone's entitled to their opinions and luckily, it's so easy to just not go to an event if it's something you don't like.
We wish the Drag Queen Bingo and all involved good luck and a fun, successful weekend as well as the businesses who came together to still make sure the Melon Festival happens!
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