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What the fest? A 614 summer festival primer

What the fest? A 614 summer festival primer

Jack McLaughlin

So you think you know everything there is to know about Columbus’ slate of summer festivals? Many people do. But this year, dig a little deeper and look for these new (or returning) features to up your summer festival fun level.

Virtual Reality Tent – Columbus Arts Festival

Contemporary art has afforded us the chance to see new work in any number of crazy formats, from a shark suspended in formaldehyde to a totally empty canvas. One way you’ve probably never taken in art, though, is via virtual reality. This year at the Columbus Arts Festival, held Friday, June 7, through Sunday June 9 at English Plaza at COSI, visitors will be able to enter the festival’s virtual reality tent and take in a wide array of new Columbus art, an innovation equal parts beautiful and fascinating.

Columbus artist Bryan Moss has created a fascinating range of VR environments that festival-goers can explore virtually, including a fun and interesting look back into the past of the Columbus-based burger chain White Castle, complete with renderings of old menus and even full restaurants.

Associate Professor of Animation at Columbus College of Art and Design Charlotte Bellins has crafted a stunning catalog of animals in augmented reality. Different from virtual reality, AR introduces virtual objects into the real world, but doesn’t transport users to an entirely new virtual location. This lets visitors freely interact with what amounts to a virtual safari,  including everything from elephants, to wolves, and even whales.

Did we mention video games? The tent, which like the festival itself is entirely free, wouldn’t be complete without a full slate of VR games for all ages. Teaming up with local gaming pioneers Multivarious, a Columbus based developer was brought in to feature their virtual reality game Beyond the Stars, an engrossing title where players are challenged to navigate their way through an alien spaceship after an unexpected abduction. Multivarious will also be showcasing a cross section of non-virtual reality games from the coolest local indie developers out there today, including an innovative puzzle game Collapsus, the action-packed battle royal style MageQuit, and more.

The Return of the Marching Fidels Doo Dah Parade

The explosively fun, communal, free-to-march parade of lunatics donning every kind of costume imaginable is held every July 4th, and it feels a bit like an Independence Day celebration if aliens had won the Revolutionary War.

Now in its 36th year, the event has seen any and all groups present in its eclectic parade, from participants donning wigs, to facepaint, to nothing at all. One of the perennial fan favorite groups, and a collective that has been involved in the festival since its inception in 1984, is the Marching Fidels.

Yes, they are named after Fidel Castro, and yes, every year they march through the streets of Columbus donning fake beards and the signature olive green garb. “Think of them as revolutionaries for America, but with a Cuban Flair,” says the parade’s ChairChick and Queen, Deb Roberts.


And if their vaguely political antics, complete with humorous signs, blow up pool sharks, and other props isn’t enough, each year the group choses one unknowing audience member to kidnap, and the (hopefully) good sport marches with them through the end of the parade route. Roberts said one year they wrangled former Columbus news anchor, Andrea Cambern.

While the group actually missed last year’s parade for the first time, (614) has it on good information that the group will be back in 2019. “They’ve taken some youth pills; they’ve been to the fountain of youth, and a new barrage of Fidels is supposed to march this year,” Roberts says.

Everybody Paddles the City – Pridefest

You’ve probably experienced Columbus Pride from its famous parade route or standing next to its pair of live music stages at Bicentennial Park and Genoa Park, where between Friday, June 14 and Sunday, June 16, nearly 20 musical guests are slated to perform.

What’s less likely, though, is that you’ve seen the Midwest’s second-largest Pride Festival, celebrating its 38th year in 2019, from a kayak while floating down the Scioto River.

For the second year in what looks to become a new Columbus Pride tradition, Everybody Paddles the City will allow ticketholders to paddle their way down the Scioto Mile on Friday, June 14 between 4:00 pm and 10:00 pm. Imagine cruising past Bicentennial Park in your favorite Pride gear as music from the Pride Stage jumps across the water before you.

Created by the American Kayaking Association, Everybody Paddles the City aims to support Columbus Pride while encouraging residents of Ohio’s largest city to get out in the natural world and learn a thing or two about America’s waterways.


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