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.

 

Grocery Shopping and Survival

Whenever possibly, CBUS Dads blogger Steven Michalovich tries to do his grocery shopping at Kroger during happy hour.

Just when I felt I could survive a trip to the store with my daughter, sure enough, we had another kid.

I remember the first time I braved a trip to the grocery store with both kiddos like it was yesterday. It was only a few months ago, but a few months can feel like a few hours when you’re a parent.

Like many good Ohioans, we are loyal to Cincinnati-based Kroger. We weren’t intentional about the day of the week, but our first trip as a family of four to Kroger was on a Friday afternoon. If you shop at Kroger, you may know that they do happy hour on Fridays. It may sound lame, but they offer full glasses of wine for a quarter. That’s right, 25 cents. Goes without saying, but I highly recommend you do your Kroger shopping during happy hour. It makes the whining and mischief much easier to tolerate.

The happy hour is strategically located as you enter the store. I could sense that the next hour of my life could be better served with a little booze, so I quickly scooped up a glass for me and my wife, and we proceeded in.

Kroger does a great job catering to kids. Starting in the produce section, they offer free bananas for children. We always make this our first stop, because a banana will keep a two-year-old busy and peaceful for about seven minutes.

Kroger also offers free cookies from the bakery. When we first started taking kids grocery shopping, the first order of business was to get that free cookie. As our daughter has grown, we dangle the cookie as the carrot for good behavior. She is well aware that a trip to the store equals a cookie for her, so she is more apt to behave and listen knowing a cookie is the reward.

My toddler is going through a phase where she loves to “help Daddy” (let’s hope this continues for the next 30 years). Giving her assignments like pulling items from our list off shelves and putting them in the cart, keep her happy and agreeable most of the time.

None of the above even accounts for our infant. Hopefully you catch yours right when they’re ready for a nap, but anyone who’s had a newborn baby knows there’s no planning when they’ll want to cozy up for a snooze.

Children, of all ages, will always be a challenge in stores, and no amount of cheap wine will change that. When it’s just me and the kids doing the grocery shopping, my wife likes to add to the challenge by sending me on an endless quest for three different kinds of nutrition bars that are all conveniently scattered in different aisles of the store.

In my short time as a dad, I’ve learned getting through any errand requires a savvy combination of distraction, motivation, inclusion, and shameless bribery. This saga will never end, so if you have any tips for how you get through your shopping adventures with kids in toe, please share them here.

Side note: the following picture was posted exactly two years ago today. A day after I turned 30. One of the early trips to Kroger with children.

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By Steven Michalovich, Contributor