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Everything you need to know about What? Fest this weekend

Mike Thomas

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When longtime friends and collaborators Ryan McKee and Ryan Ransom set out to start a new festival, they were committed to breaking free from the ordinary.

“I’ve been to Coachella, and we’re trying to be the complete opposite of that,” Ransom explains. “We’re trying to create a space where it doesn’t matter if you know the music or the artist, but you are so in awe of what you are standing in front of, and the experience of the unknown just around the corner.”

Now in its second year, McGee and Ransom’s creation, What? Music and Arts Festival, packs the ambience of a large-scale festival into a curated, inclusive event combining interactive experiences, live music, and thought-provoking visual art exhibits. Opposed to similar events that emphasize music above all, the What? Fest organizers have made an effort to showcase visual artists as a cornerstone of their festival’s approach.

“The idea of doing an interactive art gallery has been in our minds for quite a while,” says McKee. We came up with the idea of doing an art gallery like something you’d see in other cities, but that wasn’t really happening here—yet. There are lots of art galleries, and lots of music events, but not really a true combination of the two.”

With the spotlight on visual components, it’s no wonder that McKee and Ransom host their events in art spaces. The inaugural What? Festival was held last year at 934 Gallery. This year, the event will encompass the spaces at the arts community at 400 Square in Franklinton on July 27 and 28.

All of the artists who occupy studio spaces at 400 Square and were invited to contribute work to the fest, and another 71 artists from other sources, have been confirmed as contributors. McKee and Ransom hope to attract even more.

While the What? Fest co-founders prefer to keep most of the visual surprises in store for attendees under wraps; they say that the event will have a “visionary art” theme (see: the paintings of Alex Grey), including an infinity mirror room.

The two have also commissioned two visually-dazzling new stages which have been purpose-built for the event, reinforcing the fest’s high production values in spite of its intimate nature.

“I think you can be both a spectator and a participant at the same time,” McKee says of what What? Fest attendees can expect. “Having a space that’s curated and designed around it is what separates a true experience from just a music event. We made this event because I don’t necessarily think there’s anything going on like that right now in Columbus.”

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Its organizer’s dedication to the festival’s visual aspects should not suggest that the musical components su er from a lack of attention. Just like the art, McKee and Ransom have brought serious intent and forethought to the curation of two days worth of music.

“What we really want to do is get artists who are emerging,” says McKee. “Whether they have 20 followers on Instagram or 50,000, we want to treat everyone the same and give a platform to the whole breadth of the scene, as opposed to just the biggest acts.”

The two looked first to their native Ohio, seeking some of the state’s most prominent emerging artists.

“On the national scene, some of these artists might still be considered underground, but in our scene these are some of the biggest available,” McGee says of such performers as Columbus indie rockers Cousin Simple, and Yeti, the experimental EDM artist who will perform as the festival’s headliner.

In all, the acts booked to handle music duties for the weekend span every genre from hip-hop to psychedelic rock. The unifying factor among all of them is what Mckee describes as “a dance-y, positive vibe.”

As carefully as their festival’s visual and musical offerings have been considered, its founders are also deeply invested in ensuring attendees have the best possible experience at What? Fest.

“With a lot of other events in the city, there are too many people to truly experience the things you want to,” McKee explains. At all of our events, we cap our ticket sales at a point where people can get the full experience. We want people to come to our events and be able to be comfortable and experience the whole thing.”

If all goes as planned, McKee and Ransom hope that What? Fest can serve as a launching-off point for seasonal events of a similar nature – everything from smaller gallery shows to large-scale fests.

For now, the duo hope to build upon their success with What? Fest, proving that there is an audience in Central Ohio for curated art experiences on this scale.

“I think a lot of people look outside of Columbus just assuming that something is better, or something else has a reputation, so they plan to attend ahead of time,” says Ransom of similar festivals elsewhere. “For us, we need to convince everybody that we’re building something here. You don’t have to look outside of Columbus—you can stay here.”

For more information on What? Music and Arts Festival, visit whatmusicandartsfestival.com.

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Things To Do

Hit Your Peak: 3 worth-the-drive ski slopes near Columbus

Asa Herron

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The cursed Ohio Winter Monster has made its presence known to all with its 5pm sunsets, snow storms, and seasonal depression for all. How are you going to fight back against the gloom this year? It may seem like it’s impossible to do fun things with your friends or to stay active in the winter, but I’m here to tell you that not all hope is lost. Finding a new hobby is a great way to kick your winter woes to the curb and start the new decade on a good foot.

Skiing can be a great way to casually exercise with friends and resuscitate your serotonin levels. Here are three high quality places to ski within driving distance of Columbus for you to check out.

MAD RIVER MOUNTAIN

Located in Zanesfield, Mad River Mountain is about an hour's drive northwest of Columbus. They have the most reasonable prices of all the nearby ski resorts. Plus, their on-property bar, The Loft, has 12 taps of craft beers on rotation to add a little more fun to the night. Mad River is open until 1 a.m. on Fridays, too, so you’re getting a full Friday night of flurries.

Mad River is home to over 20 trails (spanning 3.9 miles) and four terrain parks making it the largest ski resort in Ohio. They also bolster ten ski lifts (the most in Ohio) and are tied with Snowtrails for the largest vertical drop in the state with their 300 foot slope. An added perk of Mad River is that they just built a new $6.2 million facility in 2016 to replace the space they lost to a fire in 2015. Plus, most of their trails are designated “easy” difficulty. Mad River has everything you need to have a relaxing, affordable day of skiing.

Details on hours and pricing can be found at www.skimadriver.com.

SNOWTRAILS

Founded in 1961, Snowtrails is Ohio’s oldest ski resort. It is located in Mansfield, so also about an hour drive north. This resort is only slightly more expensive, with lift rates starting at $31 for midweek evenings and $52 for all-day on the weekends, with skis, boots, and pole rentals are $37. If there’s one day this month that you visit Snowtrails, let it be January 25 for their mid-season party. Get ready for an outdoor DJ, a custom built snowbar, and a fireworks show 30 minutes after the slopes close for the night. Not into skiing? No problem! The party is free and open to the public, so let your expert friends hit the slopes while you hit the spirits at the snow bar.

Snowtrails is the second largest resort in the state with six ski lifts and 3.3 miles of trails. The majority of their trails are designated “intermediate” difficulty, so more experienced skiers will enjoy their time here.

More information can be found at www. snowtrails.com.

BOSTON MILLS & BRANDYWINE

Boston Mills & Brandywine is the farthest ski resort from Columbus on this list, but great for a full weekend away. This quaint resort is in Peninsula, OH is a two hour drive from Central Ohio. Their pricing is $40 after 3:30 p.m. and $45 for an all-day pass. Staying another night? Come back on Saturday for $5 Late Nights admission from 8:00 PM to 1:00 AM.

Boston Mill & Brandywine ski resort is known for being especially conducive to beginning skiers. They offer high quality lessons and will walk you through the process. This is the place to go if you have “stupid” questions about skiing, or just want to tube. However, they also appeal to veteran skiers as the majority of their 18 trails are designated “advanced”. Despite the high quantity of trails, this resort is much smaller than the other two, with only 1.2 miles of skiable trails, and their largest vertical drop being 264 feet. But for these prices? Could definitely be worth the trip.

Learn more about Boston Mills & Brandywine at www.bmbw.com.

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Arts & Culture

Watch: “World’s largest mural” in Short North is more than meets the eye

Regina Fox

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At a glance, "The Journey AR Mural" adorning the Graduate Columbus hotel in Short North is stunning. Look a little harder, and it actually comes to life.

Standing at over 107 feet tall and over 11,000 square feet of augmented reality, "The Journey AR Mural," is the world's largest AR mural, offering technology that superimposes a computer-generated image on a user's view of the real world, thus providing a composite view.

The gaily-painted snapdragons, hibiscus, Easter lilies, and hummingbirds bloom and fly when viewed through the Journey AR Mural app (free for iPhone and Android). Watch the murals come to life in the video below.

https://www.instagram.com/p/B7PRvBxpBkI/

Los Angeles-based artists Ryan Sarfati and Eric Skotnes (going by “Yanoe” and “Zoueh," respectively) are the creatives behind the project.

In an interview with Short North Arts District, Skotnes revealed he was inspired to take on the project after learning that Columbus is home to the second largest population of Somali immigrants in the country—he hopes the murals symbolize strength and prosperity for its viewers.

To learn more about The Journey AR Mural, visit shortnorth.org.

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Food & Drink

Worth the Drive: Lima’s Kewpee Hamburgers

Regina Fox

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Lima, OH may not be the first destination that comes to mind when planning a road trip, but you may have to reconsider after learning about a little (AKA one of the oldest burger chain in the world) not-so-hidden gem called Kewpee Hamburgers.

It all started in 1923 when Kewpee Hotel Hamburgs opened in Flint, Michigan. This was home to the "Mity nice Hamburger," which could be purchased for just a nickel. Kewpee was also known for its life-sized naked mascot baby, created to the likeness of the classic comic strip Kewpie dolls.

By 1940, the chain rebranded to simply "Kewpee Hamburgers," and was 400-locations strong. From Ohio to New York City, Kewpee's stole the hearts of Americans with its square patties, hot chili, thick shakes, homey diner atmosphere, and not-to-be-beaten prices.

During its rise to popularity, Kewpee also managed to revolutionize the fast food game by becoming one of the first restaurants to offer a drive-thru.

But much to the dismay of its fans far and wide, most restaurants in the franchise met their demise during WWII meat shortages.

Kewpee's time-honored legacy lives on in Lima, OH where the only three remaining restaurants are located. Despite its novelty across the country, Kewpee continues to offer guests their beloved greasy grub at rock-bottom prices ($2.45 for a cheeseburger? Take that, Five Guys).

It's hard to believe that such a famed piece of America's food history is just 90 minutes from Columbus, but it's true and definitely worth the drive. How could you say no to this innocent, yet slightly ominous face?

To learn more about Kewpee Hamburgers, click here.

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