The Chilly Open Lives Up to its Claim as the “Best Winter Party in Town”

The Debits adorn the stage at the Chilly Open

An underrated Columbus event that has been rapidly climbing my rankings of events and festivals around town – even before having kids – is the Chilly Open. Put on by the Westerville Sunrise Rotary Club, the Chilly Open has taken place annually (the first Saturday in February to be exact) for 20 years. In those 20 years, the event has raised $2.5 million for local charities. The Rotary Club organizes and runs everything the day of, along with the help of 300 volunteers. Because of this support, all proceeds go to charity. Kroger and Papa John’s are the title sponsors, with an impressive list of local businesses and individuals chipping in too.

On paper, this event already has a lot going for it in my book. One, it’s in February, which is typically dreary, cold and lacking for things to do. Two, the Chilly Open lives at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium, so it’s an excuse to come out to the Zoo in winter. All of the pavilions at the Water’s Edge Events Park are consumed by the Chilly Open. Conjoining them is a large heated tent where the main stage is located.

I’ll start with why this event is awesome for adults. Tickets are $45, which is an admittedly steep ticket price, especially if you and your wife go. But that ticket gets you four drinks (wine or Miller Lite draft). It also gets you unlimited food from 30 incredible food vendors that include local favorites Polaris Grill, Skyline Chili, Watershed Distillery, Bon Vie Bistro, Winking Lizard, Old Bag of Nails, City Barbecue, Cameron Mitchell, 101 Beer Kitchen, Asterisk Supper Club, and Koble to name a few. Each offers small plates and samples of their finest dishes and recipes.

That aforementioned stage houses local band The Debits for the majority of the five-hour day (noon-5 p.m.). They have a funny story in how they came together, but they rock out the Chilly Open every year. I was completely hooked well before their third John Mellencamp cover for the day. They are a fun group and completely interactive with the crowd, promoting dancing and fun with women, children and over-served gentlemen.

Bonus for Dom Tiberi, everyone’s favorite local sportscaster, serving as the emcee.

This is all great stuff, but what about the kids?

Superheroes at the Children's Open

Included in the price of admission is access to the Children’s Open in a separate heated, indoor facility. It’s a little kid’s fantasyland that includes face painting, animal visits, bounce houses, inflatable mazes, Wii games, food and drinks, laser tag, and seemingly endless activities. Kudos to the volunteers in costume adding to the thrill (honestly I think I was more psyched than any of the kids).

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We started our day there to let my daughter blow off some steam before transitioning to the Chilly Open. She’s only two, but kids 5-12 can be left without their parents. It’s wildly secure with matching wristbands for kids and their parents and a full staff of volunteers supervising all activities.

To cap the day, my daughter got a ride on the conveniently adjacent carousel for giving her mom and dad two solid hours at the Chilly Open.

 

Places We Love: Rockmill Brewery

CBUS Dads blogger Billy Fischer took his family to Rockmill Brewery.

Fresh brewed beer, beautiful scenery, a crackling fireplace, and a renovated barn that immediately makes you think “can I please live here.” That’s the best way
to sum up the incredible gem that is
Rockmill Brewery.

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Rockmill Brewery is a 30 minute drive from Downtown Columbus and a great place to take the family. I took the trip with my family last weekend. Initially, I wasn’t so sure about lugging the kids to a brewery in the country. I’m glad that thought didn’t stop us from going, because it was great.

After digging through the online reviews, I learned a few key things that helped make our trip enjoyable:

  • Rockmill Brewery doesn’t serve food, so make sure you pack a meal, some good snacks and drinks for the kids. If you swing by Katzinger’s Deli and tell them y
    ou’re going to Rockmill, they’ll put together a cheese plate with beer cheese pairings.
  • There’s plenty of room to run around and play. Bring a football, soccer ball, ball and glove, etc.
  • If you prefer to just relax, bring a blanket and chill on the huge green space.
  • There are a few places to explore, take a small hike (perfect for the little ones) and just generally enjoy the beautiful property. Wear appropriate footwear. We failed on this one and my daughter Charlee pretty much trashed her Nike’s.
  • Rockmill Brewery is dog friendly. So, we took our dog!

The tasting room is an old barn that was turned into a home in the 70’s. There’s a bar, 2 large TV’s, multiple fireplaces and endless rooms with comfy seating to grab a spot and hang out. If sports bars aren’t your style, this would be an amazing place to watch a game. I’d recommend waiting for the first game day snowfall and heading to Rockmill Brewery (no kids this time).

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Oh yeah, what about the beer?!

You can learn more about the Rockmill brews here. I sampled the Saison, Dubbel, Rugged Expanse and the Super Saison. Each beer was extremely unique, not your typical craft beer selection. I loved the Dubbel. An amazing dark beer with a maraschino cherry taste.

If you have the chance, take a trip to Rockmill Brewery. We had a blast!

Cheers!  

 

By Billy Fischer, Contributor