Today, September 17, 2011, is Independents’ Day — on Gay Street in downtown Columbus, Ohio, at least. It’s a day worth celebrating.
Every year, on a selected autumn Saturday, various Columbus “independents” — cultural organizations, food truck operators, local crafts people, beer sellers, restaurants, artists, musical groups, and many other — gather on Gay Street and in nearby Pearl and Lynn Alleys to put on what has become part party, part street festival, part music venue, and part general zaniness. It’s one of the things (along with the presence of our law firm, of course) that makes Gay Street by far the coolest street in downtown Columbus.
This is, I think, the fourth year that Columbus has celebrated Independents’ Day. I last went in 2009, and the event has grown considerably since then. Once the music started at the Athens Business Remixed Stage, which is right beneath my office window — a really fine band called Enrique Infante that played Caribbean/Tex-Mex music that made you want to dance — there was really no point in trying to continue with work, so I did the circuit.
There were dozens of food trucks, food stands, and places where you could wet your whistle with beer and wine. Culinary offerings ranged from chocolate covered bacon and deep-fried peaches to vegetarian hotdogs to gourmet pizza to hot off the griddle grilled cheese sandwiches to fine food cooked by some of the local restaurants. I like the humor you find in most food trucks, too. Any pizza truck that can lampoon the ever-present “Eat. Play. Work.” ads for new mixed-use developments gets my support. I bought some pastries for Kish from a Czech food stand called Kolache Republic and she gave them an enthusiastic thumbs-up.
There’s also a stand that combines a useful public service with point-of-purchase marketing: at the intersection of Gay Street and Pearl Alley, those imbibers who might be concerned about their continuing compliance with Ohio’s impaired driver laws can take a free breathalyzer test, courtesy of Hastie Law Offices, which specializes in DUI defense.
Lynn Alley, which runs parallel to Gay Street, is largely devoted to Craft Alley, sponsored by Crafty Cotillion. Here you can find local comics, folk artists, and other crafts people showing off their wares. I learned that Columbus has a vibrant independent comics community (who knew?), heard the story of “Pander Bear” — created to pander to passersby and lure them into the comics tent — and bought issue number 1 of Nix Comics Quarterly.
I was there right after the celebration started, but already the crowd was building. The musical acts will be performing all day, and the event runs until midnight, C’mon, Columbus! It is a perfect day to head to Gay Street, listen to some fine music from any one of five — five! — stages, eat, drink, and rub elbows with your fellow Columbusites. Let’s show everybody that Columbus really celebrates Independents!