Fun Festivals for the Family

Fun festivals abound all around Michigan and Indiana, celebrating everything from woodpeckers to maple syrup to pickles to just plain old small town fun.  And there’s something for everyone in the family from the youngest to the oldest.

Here are my favorites.



At the Howell Melon Festival, find the nearest booth selling the event’s signature melon ice cream. It often sells out and you don’t want to miss it. It’s wonderfully light and sweet, made from Howell melons, a cantaloupe hybrid grown locally and turned into ice cream by the Michigan State University dairy.

After the ice cream, enjoy the beautiful items for sale in the Fine Arts and Wares booths. Then, visit the Depot Museum, 128 Wetmore St., built in 1886, and now the town’s historical museum.

For more history, board a trolley for a history tour. We saw lots of beautiful Victorian homes, churches, and the 1881 Opera House where Ty Cobb’s birthday party was held.

Before leaving, enjoy more melon ice cream!

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The Thornapple Woodpecker Festival celebrates not just woodpeckers but lots of our feathered friends. At the Village Hall, 100 E. Main St., in Middleville, a small town about 20 miles south of Grand Rapids, pick up an event schedule, look at the displays, and then head out on your woodpecker adventure.

We followed the paved Paul Henry-Thornapple Trail along the Thornapple River for sightings of woodpeckers, cranes, warblers, and muskrats. A naturalist came along to help us identify the various birds. The highlight was seeing a redheaded woodpecker.

Back in the Village Hall, we enjoyed presentations by a wildlife ecologist from the Michigan Department of Natural Resources and a nature photographer.

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North Manchester

We got so caught up in the history of North Manchester, we almost forgot we were there for the annual Fun Fest by the River. We started at the Center For History, 120 E. Main, to learn about the town. Located in the former Oppenheim Department Store building, the museum chronicles the town’s history and its ties to cigars, school desks, and Thomas Marshall, vice-president under Woodrow Wilson. We then visited the home where Marshall was born, a few blocks away on Market Street.

Then, we drove to the covered bridge on South Mill Street. Built in 1872, the bridge is on the National Register of Historic Places. We walked across, stopped to watch the canoers on the Eel River and then, we drove across the bridge.

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Our visit to the Roann Covered Bridge Festival started at the Stockdale Mill, just outside town.  Built in the 1850s, the mill on the Eel River ground grain for the local farmers. Stepping inside is like traveling back in time to a simpler life.

In town, we browsed the artists’ and vendors’ booths, shopped the antique stores, and looked at an old log cabin in a downtown park. From there, we drove to the Roann Covered Bridge, built in 1877. We walked across for scenic views of the Eel River.

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St. Joe, Indiana

It’s fun to be in a pickle when you visit the annual Pickle Festival in St. Joe, Indiana. We started with a tour of Sechler’s Pickle Factory, 5685 IN-1. We tasted a variety of pickles and then saw the whole pickling process from raw cucumbers to bottled pickles. 

At the festival site in town, we enjoyed the arts and crafts tent, voted for our favorite art work in the Art and Photo Display, and sampled some pickle ice cream served up by the Lions Club. It was very tasty.

Taking a mid-afternoon break, we watched the Grande Finale parade with tractors, trucks, a high school band, and lots of fun as float riders tossed tons of candy to the children along the route.

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So, don’t settle for a humdrum summer of trips to the beach or the local park. Instead, spice it up with some fun festivals where you’ll be making family memories.

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