107 - powell festival

19) Powell Festival – June 26, 2010

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Creating a festival isn’t as easy as it sounds. If you wanted to start something in “Any Town, Ohio,” you would need something special to bring the people in.

Perhaps “Any Town” is particularly known for its strawberries. Or it’s the birthplace of a well-known celebrity. Maybe a natural phenomenon is linked to the town.

The city of Powell doesn’t use any of these tactics for its annual Powell Festival, and yet it’s able to still pull in 20,000 visitors (3X its population) each year.

That intrigued me, so I decided to give Powell a chance – especially since I had already planned on two other Columbus festivals that day. I drove in Saturday morning with some rather heavy traffic on a two lane road that went into Powell. At first, I got excited because I thought everyone was going to the festival…

…but they were actually just passing through.

I followed an “event parking” sign to the south and turned onto a converted one-way road (the right lane of S. Liberty Street had been transformed into festival parking). This was the first time I had seen a town create parking in this fashion, but I will say it was cool.

(I will also say that I wasn’t sure that the “event” in the “event parking” WAS the festival since I couldn’t see it from the road. So I ended up missing an opportunity to park the first time and went through winding streets back to my original location in bumper to bumper traffic. Thank God for GPS to get me back!)

Now convinced that I was parked correctly, I following a family onto the festival grounds. As the map shows…

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…the Powell Festival is divided into…
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…an inflatable activity area…

…a circular path divided into two sections (vendors and non-profit groups)…

…a stage area (young cheerleaders performing in the photo)…

…and a food court (this is half of it).

What the map doesn’t show is just how kid-friendly this festival is.

I say this because, amongst both vendors and not-for-profit booths, there were tons of kid activities and giveaway items. I was constantly tempted to take candy or other items I knew were specifically for the kids (I DID get a free tool belt from Habitat for Humanity, which I thank them for).

On the not-for-profit side, they also had PAWS booth…

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…with animals for the kids to pet and love.

And on the vendors’ side, they had…

…a police van helping children get photo ID’s and prints…

…and the National Children’s Hospital mascot (who gave out candy and high-fived the braver tykes).

The park also had a permanent water installation…
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…which was perfect for this hot day.

Being that it’s a small festival, I didn’t expect much for myself. I talked with some people, bought a $2 bag of Shearer’s Potato Chips with flax seed (after eating a free sample), and tried to convince some vendors that I would sincerely think about their offer.

After that was all said and done, it was time for me to eat. I was really surprised by the Powell Festival’s food selection because there were a few booths that looked really good.

Apart from gyros, hot dogs, shish kebabs, Italian ice, Hawaiian ice…

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…and carnival grub with a clown that gave me shivers…

…they had grassfed organic burgers and shakes…

…and even the deep friend strawberry shortcake…on a stick!

I considered the grassfed burger, even though I have grassfed ground beef in my freezer, and then settled on Powell’s own The Lost Shepherd Tavern…

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…a fried shrimp po’ boy sandwich with crab remoulade sauce.

Mighty good, I should add!

While eating my sandwich, I went through the Powell, Ohio bag I grabbed at an information booth. On the outside it reads,

“Powell.
Welcome home.”

The inside has information on Powell’s historic downtown and various advertisements from local vendors.

It was here that I realized that Powell wasn’t just making a festival for its people to enjoy each year. They were marketing themselves and everyone who helped make Powell, well…Powell!

Powell was the strawberry…the celebrity…the phenomenon.

And, as I think back, I would say it worked.

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