Columbus Arts Festival set to return for 62nd year: What to know if you plan to go

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Drawing nearly half a million people each year, the Columbus Arts Festival is one of the city’s biggest summer events. Festivalgoers flock Downtown to enjoy live music, dance, theater, spoken word and other performances, fashion, food, hands-on art activities and more.

And of course, they turn out in droves for the various types of art presented by juried artists who travel from near and far to give demonstrations and sell their works.

Last year’s festival was unfortunately canceled due to strong storms moving through the area. At press time, the weekend weather outlook was pleasant, with only a 30% chance of rain, but given nature’s fickleness, anything can happen and festival organizers are prepared.

“We go rain or shine. If the weather looks to be severe — high winds, lightning, tornadoes — we may make a decision to close for the day or temporarily, depending on time,” said Jami Goldstein, vice president of marketing, communications and events for the Greater Columbus Arts Council, which coordinates the three-day festival.

“If that happens, we make announcements on the riverfront public-address system, social media and media alerts.”

Goldstein said there are two safe shelters if inclement weather crops up: the Priscilla R. Tyson Cultural Arts Center, 139 W. Main St., on the east side of the river and COSI on the west.

So, if you’re hoping to hit the 62nd Columbus Arts Festival this weekend, keep your fingers crossed for dry weather and sunny skies. While we can’t tell Mother Nature what to do, we can tell you a few things you need to know before you go!

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When does the Columbus Arts Festival take place?

Hours are 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday, and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday. Artists’ booths close at 9 p.m. on Friday and Saturday.

Where is the festival being held?

The festival is to take place on the Scioto Mile riverfront in downtown Columbus at 233 S. Civic Center Drive.

How much does it cost to attend?

General admission is free. VIP Patron packages are also available for $150, which entitles the guest to one ticket to the Friday night Patron Party, two drink tickets, a free festival T-shirt (while supplies last), and other amenities. To purchase a VIP package, go to columbusartsfestival.org/visit/patron-package.

The Columbus Arts Festival, which runs Friday through Sunday, features more than 250 artists from around the U.S. and Canada, working in 15 mediums.

How many artists will be there?

The festival boasts more than 250 artists in 15 mediums: 2D and 3D mixed media, ceramics, digital art, drawing, fiber, glass, jewelry, leather, sculpture, metal (non-sculptural), painting, photography and digital photography, printmaking, and wood. The artists hail from more than 30 states, as well as Canada.

Twenty-two of these artists were chosen for the Emerging Festival Artist Program this year, a record number for the festival. Established in 2011, the program is for central Ohio artists who have limited or no experience exhibiting at national festivals. Over the years, several of the program’s participants have gone on to become regular exhibitors at the Columbus Arts Festival.

What’s in store entertainment-wise?

Entertainment is lined up on four stages: the Genoa Park Main Stage, Bicentennial Park Stage, Big Local Arts Stage and Word is Art & Acoustic Lounge. With music of all kinds, magicians, dancers, storytellers, poets, spoken-word performers and more, there’s bound to be something for everyone.

Among the highlights planned is Fashion as Art, which returns to the Genoa Park Main Stage at 8 p.m. Friday. Curated by designer and fiber artist Celeste Malvar-Stewart, the runway show is to feature four local designers.

For a complete entertainment schedule, visit columbusartsfestival.org/visit/performance-schedule.

Keep your eyes peeled for the Savannah Mobile Tour trolley, scheduled to roll into the Arts Festival from noon to 6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, bringing Southern charm, sweet treats, entertainment and more from Savannah, Georgia. Festivalgoers can sample honey from the Savannah Bee Company, enjoy free giveaways and live music, win prizes by answering Savannah trivia and do other activities.

What’s new at this year’s festival?

First-time features at the fest include Go Brewing’s nonalcoholic beers and a Water for Everyone Today (WET) portable water fountain to allow attendees to fill reusable water bottles. The fountain is to be located at Main Street and Civic Center Drive on the east side of the river, near Bicentennial Park.

Another addition is a mobile universal changing station for families near the corner of Town and Belle streets, the outgrowth of a partnership between the arts festival and Momentum Refresh. In a team-up with the Autism Society of Central Ohio, the festival also offers a sensory-friendly tent on Belle Street, near the Kids Hands-On Activities Village. Both services are sponsored by Nationwide Children’s Hospital.

Also new, the Compost Exchange is to be on-site with free composting buckets for the food trucks on the west side of the river.

Last but not least, the Big Local Arts Stage might look a bit more high-tech this year, thanks to an immersive lighting and projection installation by digital artist collective Mural ReMix paired with art by Heidi Clifford aka Primary Child.

Art lovers swarm a stretch of tents on Main Street at the Columbus Arts Festival.

Will there be street closures?

The following streets are scheduled to close at noon Wednesday and reopen at 6 a.m. Monday:

  • South Civic Center Drive from Broad Street to Main Street
  • South Second Street from Main Street to Mound Street (open to local traffic)
  • South Civic Center Drive from Mound Street to Main Street (open to local traffic)
  • Main Street (Rich Street west of the river) from the east side of Lucas Street to Front Street (local traffic only starting at McDowell Street)
  • South Ludlow Street from Town Street to Main Street (open at Town Street to local traffic)
  • West Cherry Street, from South Second Street to South Ludlow Street
  • Washington Avenue from Main Street to Broad Street
  • Rich Street (Town Street west of the river) from the east side of Lucas Street to Front Street (open to local traffic on Starling Street)
  • Noble Street east side of South Second Street, to South Civic Center Drive
  • Jewett Street from Mound Street to Main Street
  • Town Street from Front Street to Civic Center Drive (open to local traffic)
  • Belle Street from State Street to Rich Street
  • Starling Street from State Street to Main Street (open to local traffic)

Broad Street is to remain open throughout the Columbus Arts Festival.

What’s the parking situation?

Parking is available on surface lots east and west of the river, at paid kiosks or through the ParkColumbus app on surrounding city streets and in garages throughout the Downtown and Franklinton area. For a list of garages and other parking information, visit columbusartsfestival.org/visit/parking.