LIVE EVERY DAY THE COMFEST WAY
Welcome to Community Festival-three days of alternative politics,arts & crafts, music, reunions with old friends and introductions to new ones, sunshine (OK rain…), shared dreams and shared work in a shared space.
Those repetitions are intentional. The underpinnings of this annual festival were birthed in the cultural civil war of the early 1970’s, frictions that have continued to be at the core of America’s political and social change. These core conflicts in American culture developed out of the civil rights movement, the antiwar movement of the Vietnam era, the second great wave of 20th century feminism, the rise of gay activism, the sexual revolution in the wake of widespread availability of birth control, and the postwar peak of organizes labor and the prosperity it created.
It’s true that the original festival was basically a street party thrown by a bunch of hippies, radical hippies, and political radicals-nowthat was a stew-to reinforce the OSU-area cultural-political community that had emerged from the counterculture of the late 1960’s. From a few card tables, some lightweight canopies, two dozen bands, a handful of beer taps and several hundred people on a side street in the University area in 1972, Community Festival has grown into ComFest, which now draws tens of thousands of visitors from throughout central Ohio and far beyond.
From the outset, ComFest has had a political core. It grew out of a union of community organizations focused on basic needs – medical care, media, healthy food, decent housing, information resources. A set of unifying principles guides and drives ComFest. We share with others our efforts, our fears, our successes, our failures, our flaws, and our dreams as part of our commitment to, and struggle for, a more just and peaceful world.
A major part of this sharing is that, although the celebration takes place for three days, the work on it goes on for eleven months – processing what works and what doesn’t; discussing fundamental issues; working with city officials; acquiring permits; choosing vendors for the Street Fair; keeping up with local music; selecting performers, and scheduling six stages; recruiting and coordinating hundreds of volunteers; collecting program ads, writing copy, and producing the program; assessing grant proposals; planning for and setting up sanitation, clean-up, first aid and safety equipment; renting tents, tables and chairs; contracting with sound engineers; preparing the site and erecting stages, lighting, and sound equipment; renting port-a-johns and trash/recycling containers and getting them set up, and much more. Some people are involved for months, some for only a day or two of the festival weekend, but it happens because volunteers give something of themselves – time, talent, labor – to a greater good.
Let this be my annual reminder
that we can all be something bigger
– The Hold Steady
This year’s (2010) theme, “Live Every Day the ComFest Way,” is less a directive than a nudge toward reflection on a stark reality: we need each other, and we help ourselves most when we help others.
In the recent book, How, Dov Seidman suggests that, regardless of one’s political views about it, a globalized economic system demonstrates our interdependence in unforseen, surprising and often invisible ways. Our desire for inexpensive shirts and sneakers made in Asia produces pollution that melts Arctic glaciers; our desire for personal mobility props up repressive regimes that fund terrorists and underwrites corporate policies that lead to catastrophic oil spills and the destruction of wildlife, ecosystems, and local economies. Seidman suggests that, in the same way that many work toward sustainable agriculture and more limited patterns of growth, we must embrace “sustainable values,” behaviors that demonstrate awareness of our interdependence and that will sustain viable employment, communities, institutions, and natural resources. In other words, you create what you do. Do nothing and you’ll get that; do injustice and you’ll get that; do things as a community and you’ll get community. And you can’t do anything worthwhile without considering and working with others, most of them unlike you.
ComFest is not simply a party. It’s also an opportunity to explore community in its most inclusive, expansive sense. Any true community is something cooperative, and you can make ComFest your own by joining in making it happen. There are volunteer opportunities throughout the weekend (stop by Volunteer Central to find out more) and throughout the year (check out comfest.com).
This year’s logo offers an ironic nod to part of the ethos that inspired the original Community Festival: traveling a common road and helping others along the way. And the best way to attend ComFest is to “get on the bus” – to not simply be here but to be part of it. “Get on the Bus” works metaphorically on multiple levels. For Ken Kesey’s Merry Pranksters (as observed by Tom Wolfe in The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test) being “on the bus” described being on the same wavelength, of understanding the nature of the Pranksters’ cross-country escapades. In Spike Lee’s 1996 film Get on the Bus, the phrase captures a parallel theme: a diverse group with a common purpose trying to accommodate the varied experiences, needs, views, misperceptions, and flaws of its members as each person participates in a larger social action. And of course, we have a thready historic link in the reverberation of Columbus’ own Royal Crescent (R.C.) Mob’s punk-funk “Get on the Bus” blasting from the (only) ComFest stage in the late 1980’s.
ComFest happens because people work together to make it happen. People come together to create something bigger than themselves and to sustain a belief that individuals shape a collective reality, that our own contribution does make a difference, that sharing ourselves and our efforts – to help others, to improve our own communities, to initiate and sustain social and political change — is the best way to help ourselves. That’s the ComFest Way. Indian poet and essayist Rabindranath Tagore once noted, “I slept and dreamt that life was joy. I awoke and saw that life was service. I acted and behold, service was joy.” St. Francis of Assisi put it another way: “It is in giving that we receive.”
We are our only saviors
we’re gonna build something this summer
– The Hold Steady
We are our only saviors. There are no white knights, no U.S. Cavalry, no Great White/Black Hopes, no Great Leader, no manna from heaven, no rugged individualist. There’s only you and me and we and us.
So, this summer, and next autumn, and winter, and spring, and as far into the future as you dare to look, it’s up to you. In a culture that, for all of its benefits, teaches that out individual needs are the primary determinant of value and that the accumulation of more is our life’s purpose, it’s essential to accept and assert that we achieve little by ourselves. It’s critical to our collective survival that we understand that our well-being ultimately depends on the well-being of others.
Let’s build something together – The ComFest Way.
2010 ComFest Program Guide