Independents’ Day 2017 will be the Last

Lauren Sega Lauren Sega Independents’ Day 2017 will be the LastIndependents' Day 2012
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This year’s Independents’ Day Festival will be the tenth and final, but it’s not the end of the mission from the team behind it. What started as a small celebration in Downtown Columbus, and morphed into a two-day arts, music and food festival in Franklinton, will carry on in another form, possibly even a few.

On its current trajectory, the Independents’ Day Festival is bound to keep growing, but as it’s currently operated, that growth is unsustainable. Since its conception in 2007, the budget has exploded, starting out at $1,500 (put on the personal credit cards of event organizers), and growing to $250,000 with more and more sponsors and partners each year. And, while the festival makes a point to pay performers and creative individuals, the vast majority of money raised is spent on two days of festival infrastructure, which doesn’t directly benefit the participants.

“Nobody knew what was going on in Columbus 10 years ago, and now everyone knows what’s going on in Columbus all over the place,” Adam Brouillette, festival co-founder, said. “So we don’t have to highlight things as much. We’re not trying to bring things out of the woodwork anymore. What we’re trying to do is find ways to benefit the individual groups that we’re supporting in a new way.”

The ID team mulled over several options to keep the festival intact, from moving it to a fairground to making it a paid, ticketed event. Ultimately they were against the idea of charging people for a festival that had always been free. But, while not all of their future events will necessarily come with a cost, the idea is an option they’re open to.

What exactly this means is still up in the air as they focus on Independents’ Day 2017, but they’re hoping to show this year’s festival attendees how future events will look — one of a kind, once-only performances and art pieces. These smaller projects can take place in any neighborhood and may even cater to a specific discipline, like a dedicated day for the city’s chefs.

Brouillette said it took some self-assessment before the ID team came to the decision to end the festival in its present iteration. The event, originating in the Gay Street and Pearl Alley area, brought attention to a neighborhood no one was looking at, he said, so after they made their impact, they moved on to Franklinton. But, as the neighborhood faces redevelopment, event organizers had to consider what negative impacts could come along with shining a light on a neighborhood.

“There are factions of Franklinton that are looking very much forward to redevelopment, and there are factions of Franklinton that do not that want that redevelopment anywhere near where they’re at,” he said. “And it has been a contentious subject, and it’s that contention that factors into our decision making.”

“I think all festivals have to kind of walk this line between what the concerns of the community are on both sides, along with what they’re trying to achieve with the festival.”

For now the ID team is putting the future on the back burner while they plan their “best festival yet,” but Brouillette said they’re hoping to put on a few events after Independents’ Day “to show people we’re not going away.”

“First things first, let’s make a good goodbye,” Brouillette said.

Independents’ Day 2017 will take place on September 16 and 17. For more information visit thisisindependent.com.

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