After co-founder's passing, quirky event aims for expanded community benefit

SoupFest started as an excuse to throw a party in the middle of winter. In what he compares to a bit by comedian Nathan Fielder, Evan Harris used to post goofy photos with soup from every restaurant he visited. In January 2018, his friends Nick “Miklos” Battaglia and Jake Sekas took the inside joke to the next level by throwing him a soup festival at their home. Their social circle responded enthusiastically; they ended up with 11 soups and about 35 people. benevolent

Like what you’re reading? Subscribe to our weekly newsletters.

In 2019, they did it again, with double the attendance, in the lobby of an apartment complex. For 2020, they ramped up SoupFest, booking a venue and entertainment, as well as committing to donate proceeds to, naturally, a soup kitchen. Friends from across the country planned to come into town, and musicians like Chicago-based Spencer Radcliffe agreed to perform for next to nothing. Tickets sold out immediately. Then, just when things were going better than they’d imagined possible, tragedy struck.

On Nov. 11, Battaglia died suddenly and unexpectedly at age 30. Harris and Sekas offered to set up a fundraiser for his funeral costs, but his family instead donated seed money to turn SoupFest into a nonprofit organization in his memory. Their initial goal was to raise $1,500 toward the cause. Less than a month after Battaglia’s death, the GoFundMe had surpassed $24,000.

Harris and Sekas hope to support a growing range of charities as SoupFest continues to expand. This year’s event—Feb. 1 at Ace of Cups from noon to 8 p.m.—benefits Neighborhood Services Inc., which offers a food pantry, clothing, tax help and more to the University District, Linden and Clintonville areas.

***

Like what you’re reading? Subscribe to Columbus Monthly magazine so that you keep abreast of the most exciting and interesting events and destinations to explore, as well as the most talked-about newsmakers shaping life in Columbus.