Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Nothin' To Do?

I have this friend who is constantly whining to me that "There's nothing to do in this town." Usually, I just roll my eyes. It seems to me like a text book case of not being able to see the forest for the trees. Having been born and raised here in Columbus, my friend is missing what's been right of his face all along. I, on the other hand, come from a small Western Pennsylvania town where the population is barely in double digits and half of them are well over retirement age. In another small Pennsylvania town where I resided for the longest year of my life, the most popular activity in town was loitering. Walk through the town on any given night and the sidewalks would be clogged with dozens of small clusters of people young and old just standing around as if waiting for something--anything--interesting to happen. So, I know from "nothing to do."
In America's fifteenth largest city, which Columbus happens to be, there's plenty to do, especially in the summer months. There are festivals, concerts and a lot more, most of them suitable for the entire family and many of them free. What follows is by no means a comprehensive list; with the limited space I have there's no way it could be, but it'll give me something to whack my friend in the back of the head with the next time he moans that there's nothing to do in this town.
Let's start with the festivals. By the time this sees print, we'll have already seen, in May and early June, the Columbus Arts Festival, the Columbus Culture Festival, the Asian Festival, and the Columbus Rose Festival, as well as both a Summerfest and a Springfest (in that order, interestingly). But there's plenty more to look forward to throughout the remainder of the summer, right up to Labor Day weekend. All of these events feature great food, free music, and a wide range of activities, and most are free to get into.
Festival Latino, billed as the Midwest's largest Latino festival outside of Chicago, celebrates it tenth annual show Friday June 17th and Saturday the18th, running from noon to midnight each day. Juneteenth, a celebration commemorating the end of slavery in 1865, rounds out the weekend on Sunday the 19th at Franklin Park.
The final weekend in June, Friday the 24th through Sunday the 26th, once again sees Goodale Park and surrounding streets taken over by the Granddaddy of Columbus Festivals, The Community Festival, more popularly known as Comfest.
The first weekend in July is, as every American knows, Independence Day weekend and features a wide range of parades, fireworks and celebrations. A list of some local Independence Day celebrations follow this article. The big one is Red, White & Boom, the "largest fireworks display in the Midwest"--with no qualifier exempting Chicago. In addition to fireworks, there'll be a parade and a whole day of live entertainment and activities. Red, White & Boom takes place on the Riverfront Downtown on Friday, July 1st. The city of Dublin's Independence Day celebration takes place on Monday the 4th at Dublin Coffman High School and features a parade, fireworks, and a concert by Huey Lewis and The News at 8:15.
For something different--very different--check out the always irreverent Doo-Dah Parade, winding its way through the Short North at around 1:00 on Monday afternoon.
But Independence Day is just the beginning, as the festivals and celebrations continue throughout the month of July. The following weekend, Saturday and Sunday July 9th and 10th, the Westerville Music & Arts Festival takes place at Heritage Park and Everal Barn. Saturday the 23rd brings the Lazy Daze of Summer Festival on the lawn and streets surrounding the Grandview Heights Public Library. That same weekend, Friday, July 22nd through Sunday the 24th, the Jazz and Rib Fest features just what its name says, and plenty of both.
August looks pretty quiet on the festival front, with the exception of the Dublin Irish Festival, which takes place the 5th trough the 7th at Coffman Park. This gives you a couple of weeks to rest up for the Greek Festival on Labor Day Weekend, Friday September 2 through Monday September 4th, on the grounds of the Annunciation Greek Orthodox Cathedral in Downtown Columbus. The festival features Greek food and music and tours of the cathedral. There is a $4.00 admission fee which gets you a ticket good for all four days.
For music lovers, in addition to these festivals there is a variety of summer concert series featuring all types of music. The Short North Sunday Jazz Series kicks off July 10th at noon at the Gazebo in Goodale Park. Music In The Air sponsors these free concerts as well as a series of concerts at the Topiary Garden in Old Deaf School Park on Tuesday afternoons through out July and August, and Rhythm On the River at the River Amphitheatre Downtown on July 29.
The gazebo at the Whetstone Park of Roses is home to the North Columbus Civitan Club Summer Concert Series Sunday nights at 7 pm throughout the summer.
The Grandview Heights Public Library presents Music On The Lawn Tuesday afternoons.
Free concerts, food, games, and a kickball league on the Statehouse lawn are the highlights of Party On State, Thursdays from 5:30 until 8:30 pm at 65 East Sate Street.
The Columbus Symphony Orchestra brings back its popular Picnic With The Pops series on the lawn of Chemical Abstract Services, kicking off on Saturday, June 25 with Wynonna (nee Judd). Gates open at 6:00 and the concerts begin at 8:15. Picnic With The Pops will do its part to celebrate Independence Day with the Columbus Jazz Orchestra and Patriotic Pops on Saturday, July 2nd.
Okay, so maybe you're sick of music and want to see a play. Actor's Theatre continues its summer tradition of free performance at German Village's Schiller Park Thursdays through Sundays throughout the summer. They present Shakespeare's Two Gentlemen Of Verona until June 19. Much Ado About Love begins on June 23 and continues through July 10. On July 14, Romeo and Juliet begins a run that lasts through August 7, and She Stoops To Conquer rounds out the season from August 11 to September 4.
So far, everything I've listed takes place outdoors under the hot summer sun. If you feel like sitting in air conditioned comfort watching a classic film in a beautiful old theatre while listening to organ music before the show and during intermission, then the CAPA Summer Movie Series is for you. Movies are shown at the Ohio Theatre Downtown with tickets costing $3.50 each or $21.50 for a strip of ten. The series kicked off on June 10th with Billy Wilder's comedy classic Some Like It Hot. Some other highlights of the series include the Beatles in A Hard Day's Night; Animal Crackers with the Marx Brothers; It's A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World, the 1963 slapstick comedy featuring a boatload of comic stars in a chase for a quarter million dollars hidden under a "Big W"; Mel Brooks' classic satire on Western movies and racism, Blazing Saddles; and Audrey Hepburn and Rex Harrison in My Fair Lady. The series wraps up on July 23 with James Cameron's Oscar winning epic, Titanic.
This past winter was a rough time for sports fans here in Columbus, with the National Hockey League lock-out forcing the cancellation of the Blue Jackets' entire season. But summer is here now and the seasons of soccer's Columbus Crew and minor league baseball team The Clippers are in full swing, and should be enough to tide sports fans over until the real show, Buckeyes Football, starts up again in the fall.
Of course, I can't end this piece without mentioning The Ohio State Fair, taking place at the Ohio State Fairgrounds, naturally, from August 3rd through the 14th. As always, there'll be rides, games and food that that you would never ordinarily consider deep frying mounted on sticks for your overeating convenience. There will also be several concerts, including some that are free with fair admission.
That's quite a list of activities to chose from in the coming weeks, and, as I predicted, I've only scratched the surface of all there is to do in town this summer. There certainly is not "nothing to do in this town."

For more information on the events covered in this article, check out these web-sites:

Dublin Irish Festival:
Grandview Heights Public (Lazy Daze of Summer Fest and Music on the Lawn):
Festival Latino:
Westerville Music and Arts Festival:
Party On State:
CAPA Summer Movie Series:
Picnic With The Pops:
Actor's Theatre:
Music In The Air (Short North Sunday Jazz Series; Concerts at Topiary Park; Rhythm On The River)
Greek Festival:
Red, White & Boom:
Columbus Crew:
Columbus Clippers:
Ohio State Fair:

Fourth of July Celebrations:
Fireworks-- 10 pm, July 4th; Wolfe Park
Fireworks-- 10 pm, July 4th; Yoctangee Park
Fireworks-- 10 pm, July 4th; Whetstone Park
Fireworks-- 10 pm, July 4th; Coshocton County Fairgrounds
Upper Arlington:
Fireworks-- Dark, July 4th; Northam Park
Fireworks-- 10 pm, July 4th; Northam Park
Worthington Hills:
Fireworks-- Dusk, July 4th; behind the Hills Market
Fireworks-- 10 pm, July 3rd; Thomas Worthington High School Football Stadium
New Albany:
Fireworks--9:45 pm, July 3rd; New Albany High School Stadium
Parade--11 am, July 4th
Fireworks-- 10 pm, July 4th; Victory Park
Parade-- 2 pm, July 4th
Fireworks-- Dusk, July 4th; Civic Park
Fireworks-- 10 pm, July 4th; Prospect Park
West Jefferson:
Parade-- 2 pm, July 2nd
Fireworks-- 10 pm, July 4th; Garrett Park
Fireworks-- 10 pm, July 4th; Gahanna Municipal Golf Course

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