A Father’s Guide to the Columbus Arts Festival

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

Here’s How Taylor Swift Can Help You Survive The Daddy/Daughter Dance

Shake it off already.

As a parent, there’s a whole world of firsts. This past Saturday was a first for me on a whole new level. My daughter Leah and I went to our first Daddy/Daughter Dance. I had no idea what to expect. Fortunately, an unlikely source got me through the nerves, chaos and unabashed fun. Of course we’re talking about Taylor Swift:

It’s like I got this music in my mind.

Saying it’s gonna be alright.

Stress is my frenemy. I do my absolute best work when there’s a spotlight and no script. I also get stressed about everything. Everything!

When it comes to dancing, there are people with rhythm, people who sort of have rhythm, people who can’t dance and people who really can’t dance. I’m 32 floors below people who can’t dance. It’s dreadfully bad.

I hated having to go to dances in school and avoided dancing at weddings when humanly possible. Now I was going to dance with my kid in front of other dads. The logical person in me should have absolutely zero concern over this. Why was I a bit nervous? Fortunately, Leah had some solutions.

I’m dancing on my own, I make the moves up as I go.

And that’s what they don’t know, that’s what they don’t know.

As Leah says, “I am what I am, and I do what I do.” She only had three concerns about the big event.

  • Would she get a present? She did.
  • Would there be cake? What’s a party without cake?
  • Would her best friend from kindergarten be there? Not sure.

There was no concern over peer pressure, no worries about what to wear or not wear. To her, it was a chance to have fun. No more. No less.

So often, parents are the ones who can mess things up. We focus on what happened in the past or worry about what will happen in the future. What about now? No really – now. This moment. This opportunity. This chance to spend time with your kid. As parents, we teach them plenty. Leah helped teach me to shake off these nerves and just go. So I did.

 I never miss a beat, I’m lightning on my feet.

And that’s what they don’t see, that’s what they don’t see.

Leah ended up finding her best friend from kindergarten. Like backup dancers from Taylor Swift’s tour, it was a whirling dervish of activity and an ongoing quest to make sure you knew where your kid was while every pop song imaginable blared over the speakers.

Leah is six; she didn’t need her dad. I suppose this may emerge as a trend in later years.

You could’ve been getting down to this sick beat.

The result left me in an unexpected position. I, and about 150 other dads, were just hanging around trying to figure out what to do. Fortunately, the spirit of our playful bunch diffused to dads. Instead of looking at our phones in a haze, I had a chance to connect with random strangers, share some jokes and even see old neighbors I hadn’t seen in years.

I could have been getting down, but I feel lifted up by the sense of community. I was also thrilled to support an important cause; the dance raised nearly $10,000 for breast cancer research.

I stay out too late, got nothing in my brain.

Leah’s bedtime is around 8. At 8:40, I realized it was probably time to have left 20 minutes ago. There was just one problem; I couldn’t find her. Leah wanted to go to the bathroom with the big kids all by herself. In the haze of humanity, she went back in the gym, and I missed her.

Six or seven minutes later, I saw Leah talking with another dad. Here’s what I heard as I walked over.

“It’s always important to find a policeman or fireman if you go missing so they can help you find your daddy. And then, (looks over) Daddy there you are.”

daddy-daughter-photoAs she ran over a for a hug, I realized she was getting bigger but was still my little girl. I suspect it will be that way for a while. The only thing left to do before we had to go home was shake it off.

But I keep cruising.

Can’t stop, won’t stop moving.

It was only once dance, a three-minute country song with words I can’t remember. The moment, Leah kissing my hand and asking for me to pick her up. That’s one that will stick with me for a while.

I hope every dad will shake off their anxiety and past worry and find ways to live in the now. Doing so will make moments that last a lifetime.  It’s easy to start. All you have to do is shake it off.

By Dan Farkas, Contributor