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Short North Deals with ComFest Rowdiness

Jesse Bethea Jesse Bethea Short North Deals with ComFest RowdinessPhoto via Josh Quinn.
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ComFest has been a Columbus tradition for more than 40 years, but organizers are still trying to distance the event from its reputation for rowdiness. Connie Everett, an organizer and media spokesperson for ComFest, said that for the last few years organizers have been concerned about the size of the annual event in Goodale Park, as well as the attendance of people who don’t share the same peaceful attitude the festival promotes.

“We are doing a lot to discourage people with bad behavior,” said Everett. “We’ve… taken every measure that we can think of and we’re always thinking of more.”

Everett says the organizers don’t want to leave Goodale Park, where the festival has primarily been held since 1972. In order to keep the festival peaceful, Everett says that organizers have tried to keep the focus on purpose-driven programming in order to attract a preferred segment of the public.

“I think there’s less for the rowdy folks to do,” said Everett. “There’s more for families and people who want to learn about their community and current issues to do.”

Residents and business owners in the Short North like Josh Quinn, who owns Tigertree on the 700 block of High Street, appreciate the local and cultural focus of ComFest.

“I think the fact that we have a completely organic music festival that features some of the best talent from Columbus on multiple stages in our city’s best park is great,” said Quinn in an email.

Even so, Quinn believes businesses in the neighborhood suffer when ComFest comes around every year. Quinn said that while it’s hard to measure the rowdiness of the festival, its impact on the surrounding neighborhood appears to have gotten worse in recent years.

“This year we had two businesses on one block lose storefront windows and one lose a door in just one night,” said Quinn. “I…personally had a guy pass out on my front porch and threaten my wife and I when I tried to move him on.”

Quinn also pointed out that ComFest is part of a string of summer events, including Columbus Pride and Red, White and Boom, which present significant challenges to local businesses.

“There is a bit of a misperception that more traffic equates to more business,” said Quinn. “But with local niche-focused retailers and restaurants that isn’t actually the case.”

Despite these issues, ComFest remains popular in the Short North. Jeff Smith of the Short North Civic Association called the festival a “valuable community partner” and said the majority of the neighborhood supports and enjoys the event.

“We appreciate the steps they have taken over the years to mitigate the impact on the neighborhood,” said Smith in an email.

Betsy Pandora of the Short North Alliance had similar praise for ComFest.

“While festivals and events present challenges for the communities that house them,” said Pandora in an email, “they contribute to the vitality and culture of Columbus as a whole and specifically to the Short North Arts District.”

Pandora also complimented ComFest organizers on consistently restoring Goodale Park to its pre-festival condition, but acknowledged the harmful impact the festival can have on its host neighborhood.

“While I think all involved can do a better job of helping to manage parking and what visitors do when they leave the event,” said Pandora, “I think we’re still far from breaching the capacity of the park to house ComFest.”

Quinn does not dislike ComFest and added that it “would be a loss for our community to move that energy elsewhere.” Still, he hopes more attention will be paid to the businesses and residences of the area so that the festival’s negative impacts can be minimized.

“That isn’t an attack on ComFest,” said Quinn. “It’s just the reality of putting that many people…in one place, especially when substances are involved.”

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