“Party with a Purpose” at ComFest in Columbus

columbus-community-festival

Last weekend, I visited friends in Columbus, Ohio for one of the city’s signature events – ComFest. Officially known as “the Community Festival,” ComFest brings free music and arts to Gooddale Park each June.

Since 1972, ComFest has been promoting community cooperation and alternatives to mainstream culture. Billed as “the party with a purpose,” ComFest does not accept corporate sponsorship and is entirely volunteer-run.

I had the opportunity a few years ago to be one of these volunteers. I drove in from Chicago and volunteered with a friend at the beer tent during peak drinking hours. The atmosphere at the taps was madness. Covered in suds and offering smiles, we volunteers kept it positive and worked together to keep everyone lubricated. Sales from the Columbus Brewing Company beers help fund the festival and the tips at the booth go to homeless shelters.

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This year, I spent about an hour people-watching before beating the 90-something degree heat. Families milled among topless women, youthful mowhawks, and attendees sporting peace-sign jewelry made of sticks. Protesters were mostly ignored in favor of vendors selling energy stones and tie-dye everything. Percussion-centric tribal tunes shifted into free jazz as I strolled through Gooddale Park from stages named Peace Village and I Wish You Jazz, along with something I can only describe as “shriek folk.”

comfest-columbus

comfest-columbus

“[Community] is the only way we meaningfully live together.”

During its 41st anniversary last weekend, an estimated 25,000 people attended this year’s ComFest. As I took in the sights and sound of ComFest, I considered this statement by Steve Abbot in the 2016 program guide.

“Forming and being in community is messy. It takes time. Like any other relationship, it can sometimes be frustrating and disappointing and emotionally draining. Ultimately, though, it’s spiritually nourishing. And it’s the only way we meaningfully live together.”

Until next year, let’s keep the community spirit in mind. Happy ComFest!

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