Contrary to a common perception, The Community Festival is NOT a music festival. The music, which tends to attract most of the attention at Comfest, is just one important component of a multi-faceted community event.
In fact, when The Community Festival began back in 1972, the entertainment was an after-thought. Originally, The Community Festival was an effort by OSU-area community activists and the local counter-culture to familiarize the people in their community with various community organizations by means of holding a street party where those organizations would have tables, Someone suggested that having live music nearby might attract more people to the event. That was the birth of “The Party with a Purpose”.
The Purpose was, and still is, to support the collective work being done for the good of all people in the community. The entertainment was meant to help bring people to an event where they could learn about the organizations doing that work and celebrate a social movement that was based on the belief that the basic necessities of life are a right and not a privilege, that people should strive to conduct their lives in harmony with the environment and that we should seek to eliminate prejudice and discrimination.
In addition, the entertainment at The Community Festival has always been more than music. Throughout the history of Comfest, the entertainment has included spoken word and poetry, dance, film, live arts and fine arts. It began with local artists and entertainers and has evolved into a tradition of presenting the finest local talent in Columbus.
ComFest does not depend on national or regional acts and speakers to carry the event. We seek to invite acts and speakers that reinforce our social and cultural aspirations as defined in our Statement of Principals. Rarely, if ever, will a national act be chosen just because it is entertaining or popular. In the spirit of being a community event, Comfest prides itself on giving local artists and entertainers an opportunity to share their craft with their community and support the purposes of the festival. The entertainment is almost exclusively provided by local artists and entertainers who perform for free. Most of them consider it an honor and a privilege to perform at Comfest.
Currently, The Community Festival features over 200 acts on six stages. Music predominates at The Bozo/Main Stage, The Off Ramp Stage, The “I Wish You Jazz” Stage and The Gazebo Stage ranging from pop to rock to reggae to soul to funk to hip hop to bluegrass to experimental to classical to jazz to blues to R&B to Brazilian....you get the idea. The Live Arts Stage features dance, drumming, spoken word/poetry and acts featuring cultural diversity. The Solar Stage programming is a combination of workshops on environmental and political/social issues and acoustic music, all powered by solar energy. Recently the festival added The Healing Zone in a tent that features alternative and traditional techniques to treat our bodies and nurture our spirits
In the early years of The Community Festival there was no Entertainment Committee. Like all the jobs required to put on the event, someone stepped up to the plate and took care of booking acts. Early on, Darryl Mendelson became the person who took on those responsibilities on a regular basis. As the festival grew, things got more complex and subcommittees started forming to get the work done. In the ‘90s, Darryl started taking on assistants and eventually the Entertainment Committee (aka Entcomm) was formed. Darryl is still the senior member and head of the committee.
Like all Comfest committees, the Entcomm is open to anyone who wants to make a commitment to do the work and take responsibility. There is no experience required, just a love of Comfest and an understanding of and allegiance to Comfest principles and purpose. The current committee includes musicians, lawyers, promoters and small business owners among others. The basic work of the Entcomm is to program the entertainment and take responsibility for managing the stages during the festival. Sounds simple but it isn’t. It requires a year-long effort on the part of a dozen or more committee members. The Entcomm meets monthly from July to December and then the number of meetings gradually increases from January up to the event in June when we are meeting once or twice a week. Members of the committee are expected to attend as many of those meetings as possible.
In addition, members of the Entcomm tend to be members of other Comfest committees including the General Planning Committee. So you can see that membership can become a significant commitment of one’s time and energy. Despite that fact, the Entcomm is one of the most vibrant committees within The Community Festival. We are always adding new blood to the committee and we don’t lose too many people along the way. It is an opportunity for people who have a passion about live local entertainment to serve their community with a group of like-minded people. The Entcomm has a reputation for being contentious at times because it consists of strong personalities who are passionate about the task they perform. But for most part, it is a very friendly, collegial group that gets along better every year. Membership in Entcomm is an energizing and satisfying experience that keeps members coming back year after year.
In order to perform at Comfest, an act must submit an application. Applications can be completed on line at comfest.com beginning in November and submitted through April 1. It is important to completely fill out the entire application and if updates are required, that can be done directly through your new application login. Additional inquires can be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org .
Any act from anywhere can apply but they should realize that with over 500 local acts applying for approximately 200 slots, the chances of an act that is not based in the Columbus area being chosen are slim to none. Acts with significant connections to Columbus but not based here have a somewhat better chance.
Besides Comfest’s desire to give local acts the opportunity to perform for and support their community, an act that regularly performs in Columbus has a better chance of being seriously considered because members of the committee are able to experience and judge an act’s live performance. The committee also reviews and considers recorded performances but that is not usually an effective substitute for live performances that committee members can attend. Upcoming performances can be listed on the application which can be updated directly through May 1. Links to internet sites and mp3s can also be included on the application.
The Entcomm applies certain criteria to guide its selection process. The selection process is not a contest to find the “best” bands or performers in Columbus but the committee invariably does select most of the “best” music and live arts from the Columbus community. Whether an act excels musically or professionally is obviously a subjective judgment. The exercise of that judgment is entrusted to the members of the Entcomm who put in the time and effort required to be a member. Showing exemplary talent and creativity is just one consideration toward being selected. The fact that an act is popular or “draws a crowd” means just about nothing to the Entcomm. In fact, it might work against an act because the crowds at Comfest are already as large as we can handle.
The Entcomm seeks to find acts that help exemplify Comfest’s desire to support and showcase the multiculturalism of our community. We are looking for diversity in the cultural style of the performance and in the performers themselves. This is one of the most important criteria the Entcomm uses in selection and the committee makes a concerted effort to do outreach in order to find acts that meet this criteria.
Another criteria that can be important in an act getting selected is whether members of the act are part of the “Comfest family” who volunteer to work for Comfest or other community organizations. The on line application provides each applicant the ability to outline their community involvement. One can become a member of the Comfest family by volunteering to work at comfest.com.
The committee also gives special consideration to acts that have been performing at Comfest for many years and have become Comfest fixtures and Honored Artists. On the other hand, the Entcomm makes an effort to select acts that have never performed at Comfest. Usually, at least a third of the acts chosen have never previously performed at Comfest.
The selection process within the Entcomm is usually completed by May 15. Acts that are chosen are contacted by phone and/or email when their performance availability is confirmed. If an act has not been contacted by June 1, it is highly unlikely that the act has been selected to perform. After confirmation, each act is sent a letter with instructions and parking passes if applicable. The letter contains very specific times that each act arrives and goes on and off stage. The parking passes contain specific times that the act can park on site. These times must be honored to allow other acts to fully participate and to make Comfest volunteers’ jobs easier.