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Rainbow colored fist and words Columbus Community Pride 2018 Back to our Roots

As summer starts to take over the Midwestern air, we’re approaching what is easily one of the best times in Ohio -- festival season. From the recent Nelsonville Music Festival to the Columbus Arts Festival on June 8-10 and the beloved ComFest on June 22-24, there really is something for everyone as Ohioans find themselves getting into the summer season spirit.

Growing up in Columbus allowed me to experience most of these festivals firsthand and appreciate them more and more every year. As a student at Ohio University, I saw how the entire Hocking Hills region would flock to the Nelsonville Music Festival, even during its humble beginnings. This year it was obvious that it appeals to people from all over the state and elsewhere as the concerts and musical acts have only gotten bigger and better. The economic benefits are proving to be invaluable to the Nelsonville area as well, as it’s become a tradition for performers and audience goers alike.

The Columbus Arts Festival was always a pleasure for us students in the Bexley School District, as some of our classes’ art would be featured in the annual galleries. It was always a reminder that the arts scene in our city is so much larger and more appreciated than in other places around the country. Not only is it well-recognized, but it’s well-funded through public and private partnerships. Seeing the amount of local and regional art on display along the Columbus waterfront -- as well as the amount of festival goers enjoying themselves -- always makes me realize the arts are a cornerstone of what makes Columbus great.

Add to this the biggest festival gem of them all at the end of June -- Community Festival, or ComFest. This one will always be near and dear to my heart, as ComFest was necessary to attend whether I was a kid, teenager or young adult back home for the summer. It takes all of the best things about Columbus and puts them together into Goodale Park, from local bands and artisans, to local speakers and lecturers, to local flavors and breweries and everything else. There was never a year when ComFest wasn’t one of the most exciting parts about growing up in Columbus, and as I got older and was able to do comedy or MC at any one of the numerous stages, my appreciation for ComFest -- and the organizers and volunteers who make it happen every year -- only grew.

Of course, some of you may have noticed a festival that I’ve left off of this list, but I can assure you it’s not because it didn’t stand out as a memorable part of growing up in Columbus. On the contrary, the situation with Columbus Pride Festival has changed in the past year -- but it may be for the better. At the 2017 Stonewall Pride Parade, several minority members of the LGBTQ community sought to make a peaceful demonstration in the street and were subsequently (surprise!) accosted by Columbus Police officers and assaulted with bikes and pepper spray. As a result, four black trans individuals were arrested and later put on trial, to be known as the #BlackPride4. Although Stonewall Columbus had (until that time) a reputation for standing with their own within the LGBTQ community, the organization instead lived up to their literal name and refused to aid or communicate with the #BlackPride4 or their supporters. They went on to not address important internal issues and ultimately testified in favor of the prosecution.

As a result, the LGBTQ and conscienscous Columbus community has stood up in support of a new festival called Columbus Community Pride. The celebration kicks off at the beginning of June with several events throughout the month, culminating with a big Community Pride Festival at Mayme Moore Park on June 16. The fest even has the perfect slogan to boot -- “back to our roots.”

This is what happens when community festivals get tarnished by powerful establishment interests. If big money sponsors with hypocritical stances stained any other Ohio festival the same way Stonewall Columbus did with Pride in 2017, the results would likely be the same. The communities of Ohio that are strong and vibrant enough to put on the kind of festivals we see throughout June are not to be messed with. Whether it’s the music or art scenes in Ohio or the alternative lifestyles featured at ComFest, separation from the powers that be are a staple of what these various festivals stand for and ingrained in their origins and traditions. It is what makes them truly great.

I have no doubt that Columbus Community Pride will eventually join the ranks of the great festivals of Ohio, while Stonewall Columbus’ power mongering and inaction will fade into the past. There’s a reason why you can’t spell “community” without “unity” and the people of Ohio continue to prove why that is.

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