The Community Festival, also known as ComFest, is an annual arts and music festival held in Gooddale Park in Columbus, Ohio. It started in 1972 in the shadows of the Vietnam War by a group known as the Community Union. It was a music festival that was set to raise consciousness and
promote alternatives. It almost didn't happen because the police arrested eight of its organizers due to their organizing roles in the anti-war movement. The tradition has since continued and evolved into what can arguably be called the largest non-corporate free urban arts and music festival in the country. This growth has changed many things
at ComFest but it still strives to be the party with a purpose and this year is no different.
ComFest itself is a radical testimony to what a large group of
volunteers working on consensus can achieve. All decisions affecting the festival operations are coordinated within several committees by a group of long-term volunteers and agreed upon by the consensus process. Volunteers from various community groups combine their efforts to handle
tasks such as clean-up and recycling to safety and first-aid.
The festival itself takes place in a public park in the Short North of Columbus and is surrounded by what has become one of the most affluent neighborhoods in the city. When ComFest moved to the Short North from the OSU Campus area in the late 80s it took place in an abandoned lot
that has since been converted into condos. There are six stages with primarily local acts from a wide variety of musical traditions, from jazz to folk to punk rock and hip-hop, almost all tastes are covered at ComFest. Beyond the music there are arts and crafts vendors and local restaurants, but the heart of the street fair is the space provided for community groups to do outreach and interface with the public face to
face. In this world of digital communication the opportunity for people to meet and speak face to face is priceless.
One of the great aspects of ComFest is that as a local tradition it serves as a reunion and public gathering spot where old friends can run into each other and almost everybody in the community attends. As the festival grows it also struggles to maintain its sustainability, and is always in need of increasing amounts of volunteers to help maintain
operations. So far it has been able to cope, and with the increased participation from the community it will be able to sustain itself.
This year ComFest will be providing a much needed view into its radical roots as they premier the recently digitized reel to reel footage that was captured by the 1970s independent media outlet known as Datagang. This footage shows the festival during its first years and features
meetings by the food co-op and others who made up the Community Union that worked to bring us ComFest. In addition to showcasing the role of independent media, ComFest 2008 will also provide a spot-light for current new media ideas and projects at the shelterhouse which is
located in the center of the park and at the heart of the festival.
One of the featured speakers will be Bob Fitrakis, editor of the Columbus Freepress and author of many books detailing how the 2004 U.S. presidential election was stolen in Ohio. The Iraq Veterans against the War will be speaking on various stages and doing a workshop where they
will show video of the recent Winter Soldier testimony on Capitol Hill. Reality Sandwich's own Daniel Pinchbeck will also be featured on a panel, as well as speaking to the crowds on various stages. Franklin Lopez, producer of underground media site Submedia.tv, will be doing a workshop and showing footage.
This year's ComFest will happen in the backdrop of the continued war and occupation in Iraq as well as in the shadow of the upcoming presidential election in the swing state of Ohio. A lot of people will come and get to know each other and our community will be exposed to all sorts of new ideas and projects. This radical tradition will continue to thrive and grow as one more example of how people working together can accomplish great things -- as this year's motto on the t-shirts say: "Be The Change!"Tweet