Cool Stuff Coming Up

Those of you who live in the Columbus area might want to mark your calendars for two cool events that are coming up in two weeks:  Independents’ Day 2014, and Open Streets Columbus.

Those of us lucky enough to work on Gay Street know Independents’ Day well.  For years, it’s been held on Gay Street, right in front of my office.  It’s a great event that gives the “independents” in Columbus — be they musicians, artists, businesses, food trucks, or just about anyone else who wants to claim the title — a chance to show what they’ve got to offer the community.

IMG_2936This year Independents’ Day is moving to Franklinton, the part of Columbus just across the Scioto River from downtown Columbus.  Franklinton is where Dinin’ Hall is found — so it’s a great place by simple association — but it’s also an area on the uptick, where people are willing to try new things.  Although we’ll miss Independents’ Day on Gay Street, I think it’s great that Franklinton is the new location, so people can get a look at this up-and-coming area and what it has to offer.  This year’s festivities will be held from September 19 through September 21.

And here’s a terrific new twist on Independents’ Day:  on September 21, between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., Rich Street — between High Street in downtown Columbus and Starling Street in Franklinton — will be closed to vehicular traffic so that cyclists, walkers, joggers, skateboarders, and the casual strollers among us can walk down the street and across the new bridge.  They’re calling it Open Streets Columbus, and a chance to explore “a car-free urban playground.”  If you’ve never walked down the middle of a broad street and over a bridge without the thrum of traffic and the smell of exhaust affecting the experience, I can assure you it’s fun.

Soggy, But Independent

IMG_1460It’s Independents’ Day in Columbus.  At work this morning I watched from my office window as independent organizations, band members, and other right-minded folks were dodging the raindrops on Gay Street, getting their tents and stands set up. Now the rain has stopped, the sun is out, and its a beautiful day for a little downtown partying.

This year, the Independents’ Day celebration has expanded to three days.  If you’re in the downtown area, stop by — it’s a great event and just another example of why Columbus is a great place to live.

Time To Find Your Independents

Today is Independents’ Day on Gay Street in Columbus — when a slew of quirky, independent organizations, artists, and random people get together in the heart of downtown for some fun and frivolity.

Bright sunshine and perfect temperatures.  Clothing, jewelry, and crafts tents.  Beer.  Local bands and multiple performance stages.  Great food stands from local restaurants.  Locally written comics.  More beer.  A theater featuring movies and local comedians.  Ohio wine and the products of local distilleries.  Beer stands in the alley.  Food trucks.  Used record albums.  Beer.  Kids’ games, face-painting, and chalk art.  Lots of music in the air.  Hey, did I mention beer?

My favorite new venture is the “Dance if you Dare” area in the alley behind Gay Street.  Loud techno music was pulsing and a big cleared parking lot for dancing.  When I walked by, however, there weren’t any dancers — and I didn’t dare.

The Independents’ Day celebration goes on all day.  Stop by if you get a chance — it’s a fun event.

Independents’ Day Is Coming

Every year in mid-September a bunch of independent, local organizations come to Gay Street, right in front of our buildings, for a festive day of food, fun, and music.  The street and adjoining alleys are blocked off and filled with tents, food trucks, and multiple music stages.  They call it Independents’ Day on Gay.

I first stumbled upon this great event when I was working on a Saturday and heard some commotion outside my window, and since then I’ve looked forward to it every year.  It’s the kind of community-festival, get-to-know-your-local-organizations, neat-thing-to-do-on-a-sunny-Saturday-afternoon thing that makes Columbus a great place — and also helps to cement Gay Street’s strong rep as the coolest street in downtown Columbus.

This year’s Independents’ Day is Saturday, September 15.  36 musical acts performing live, many with great names (such as The Alpine Ghost, Forest & the Evergreens, and Skashank Redemption, among many others)!  Food trucks galore!  Stand-up comedians!  Crafters and artists!  Local organizations that help to make our city a better place to live!  Street dancing!  Perhaps even a mime or two!

Mark your calendars.

Independents’ Day, 2011

Independents' Day, as seen from my Gay Street office window

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.

A food truck with a great sense of humor

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.

"Pander Bear" stands guard in Lynn Alley

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!

Independents’ Day On Gay

I had to work today and I’m glad I did, because today was “Independents’ Day” on Gay Street, where the firm has its offices.  As I was working this morning I heard Independents’ Day organizers setting up the Gay Street sound stage and tents right outside my window.  They blocked off the street and had mapped out squares of the street for use by chalk artists, who began to work their magic.  Soon thereafter street vendors and stands for various artists, radio stations, newspapers, community organizations, and groups set up.  It was a beautiful day, and the atmosphere was loose and festive.

The view from my office window, looking down and west on Gay

The view from my office window, looking down and west on Gay

By the time I was wrapping up my work for the day the first acts began to perform on the Gay Street stage, and the chalk art on the street below began to take shape.  I listened to some fine sets from the Andy Shaw Band and Bush League All Stars — who did an excellent rendition of the Beatles’ I Dig A Pony — and then was struck by a band called Burglar which featured a stand up bass, fine guitar, keyboard, and drum work, a female horn player, and a lead singer wearing hot pants.  They were pretty good if I don’t say so myself, and provided some very enjoyable music to keep me company.

Chalk artists and stands outside the venerable entrance to VSSP at 52 East Gay

Chalk artists and stands outside the venerable entrance to VSSP at 52 East Gay

After I finished with work I went down and walked around.  I admired the work of the chalk artists (who included Richard’s friend Roland and his girlfriend, whose name I unfortunately have forgotten), listened to some more music, and browsed around some of the stands.  There was a dunking tank for members of the Ohio Roller Girls roller derby team and a group called “Art Squatters” had taken over the vacant bank building at the corner of Gay and High and set up some interesting artwork there.  The folks whose apartment is directly across the street from my office had the windows wide open and were loudly proclaiming their efforts to break a hula hoop endurance record.  The crappy photos accompanying this posting, taken with my Blackberry, are a dim attempt to capture the almost ’60s-type atmosphere.

Sunlit chalk art on Gay Street

Sunlit chalk art on Gay Street

What is Independents’ Day?  One of the people I talked to said it is simply a way for the various independent organizations in Columbus to get out into the community, bring people together, and hopefully get some attention.  Whatever it was supposed to be, it was a lot of fun, and the kind of thing it is important for downtown areas in cities like Columbus.  Cities need periodic festivals and gatherings where people can congregate, mingle, and enjoy the cityscape.  Gay Street is the perfect street for such an event because it is centrally located one block from the Ohio Statehouse and has an interesting variety of turn of the century-type buildings (i.e., no building more than 10 stories or so), wide sidewalks, and readily available parking.

If you read this on September 19, consider going down there and supporting a new event that doesn’t take itself too seriously.  Apparently they are going to be showing movies by local filmmakers this evening, projecting them right on Gay Street.  Pretty cool!  Next year I might just make a full day of it.