I grew up at the Columbus Arts Festival. It has always been just one weekend of the year, but it stands out to me like any holiday or annual tradition. My father is an exceptionally talented artist. His art took him around the world, introduced him to celebrities, kept food on our table, and provided my siblings and me with braces.
However, I never saw much of that work. What I did see, (from the back of his art booth) was him being a rockstar once a year. Fellow artists, collectors from across the country and friends from long ago would stop by the booth to see what he created in the 52 weeks since they saw him last. They would tell old stories, crack new jokes, trade art, and make a lot of money (a concept that was very foreign to me at that time).
I, unfortunately, did not inherit his visual art skills the way my siblings did, but I did develop a lifelong affinity for the community, diverse passions showcased and the event as a whole. Now that I am a father, it brings me great joy to share this experience with my son from the other side of the booth. Here are a few of my tips to getting the most out of the experience for both you and your family.
Use alternative transportation. This will not be an easy option for all, but even if you are coming from outside the loop, consider parking a little ways out and grabbing a pedicab, car2go or Hopper Cart for a grand entrance to the festivities. For those of us who live closer, you can bike (Pelotonia has a bike corral this year) or take the COTA. My son loves buses. He loves to see them, he loves to sing about them, he loves to tell me how fast they are going, but mostly he just wants to ride the BUS!!
Bring friends and family. The best way to experience this festival is with children. It is a good way to strengthen relationship skills between children and their community by introducing them to people they are comfortable with in different environments. We take his Aunt Lindsay (LaLa) each year and give them a little alone time to pick out a piece of local art for his room.
Get your kid a drink. Preferably in a fancy cup, a coconut or something. It is amazing how children can associate mixed senses with memories at events like this. My personal suggestion is to get a big lemon shake-up and just request that they use A LOT less sugar.
Order off the kids menu. This festival has done a great job over the last few years in bringing in some great local food options. I am a fan of the food trucks but I am biased. If the lines are not long ask for a kids menu, they will not have one, but they will have fun making up options for you. If you go to Tortilla, order the “CBUS Dads Special.”
Dance! They have a special stage for it, but most importantly just dance!
Befriend a local artist. This is one of my favorite parts, I like eccentric, interesting people and this festival is full of them. My personal artist of the year is Andrew Lundberg in the Big Local Art Tent. If Franklinton is our renaissance district, he is our Michelangelo, partly because he can build/paint anything beautifully, and partly because he is a party dude (Cowabunga!)
Enjoy the activity village. You and your kin can screenprint shirts, beta-test video games, learn musical instruments, design an art tote, design jewelry, build a sandcastle, and so much more! (I’m especially excited to check out the catapult painting with Grayson this year!)
Listen to the music of the people in the city. GCAC is one of the greatest supporters of art anywhere. If you like the music at Independents’ Day and that we pay our artists, you have GCAC to thank. Thus, it is no surprise that they have not held back building this year’s lineup. Grayson will be on my shoulders with his bright blue headphones on a lot this weekend.
Breath and enjoy the experience. Just load up a bag with a clean outfit, a few toys, lots of water, tasty snacks, and let the festival be your guide.
This (as well as all of my blogs) has been edited by the lovely Miss Ashley Baker for co-parent consent, grammar, and to make sure my dad jokes are only kinda dumb.
-By Wolf Starr, Regular Contributor