HighBall Hijinks: Columbus' most fashionable street party comes out to play

Kristen Schmidt, Columbus Alive

It's a fashion show, a street party, carnival, arts show and concert rolled into one. And 30,000 people are expected to show up this year. HighBall's evolved over the years, adding and dropping bits and pieces along the way, but the crowds keep getting bigger. And, while you're welcome to show up in street clothes, you're encouraged to come as someone or something else entirely.

"What's fun for all of us is when people come out and put 110 percent into their costumes," said Betsy Pandora, executive director of the Short North Alliance, which runs the event. "You get taken aback by the creativity that's inherent in our city."

The Friday and Saturday night festivities are designed to be different enough that it's worth showing up both nights to keep up with the people watching, music and runway shows. Friday night is Michael Jackson-themed ("It's not necessarily about one era of fashion but about a fashion icon," Pandora said), with a public costume contest that asks for your best King of Pop renditions and a performance by Who's Bad, the Michael Jackson cover band extraordinaire. And Saturday night holds what's become the defining event of HighBall, the costume couture competition among fashion designers.

"We've seen designers come from far and wide to apply," Pandora said. "They see this as a launching point as they're building their own careers. One designer from Peru recently moved to Columbus. We have another from Cincinnati. We've got folks who are veterans and who are really competitive with each other and we've got some folks who are very young and still in their education."

Plan to dress to the nines? Put that look on display during the public costume contests on either night and have a chance to go home with $250. And don't miss performances from local bands MojoFlo, Angela Perley & The Howlin' Moons, The Floorwalkers and The Original Soundtrack.

Whichever night you visit, you'll want to make your way into the festival through the grand entrance at Goodale Street-you'll know it when you see the carnival-style funhouse shaped somewhere between a Day of the Dead Katrina face, a skull and a hockey helmet (the entrance is sponsored by the Blue Jackets). Be sure to stop at one of the live "Big"-style fortune tellers scattered around the entrance; they're a perfect introduction to the theatrics and artistry to come once you're inside the event.

If you're planning on entering the HighBall public costume contest either night, you'd better be ready to bring it. The competition is stiff, and it starts at the sign-up table, where, effectively, casting directors will give you a "Project Runway"-style "You're in" or "You're out" before you're even approved to strut the catwalk. Here's what you need to know:

Present yourself to the costume contest coordinators at the left-hand of the HighBall stage by 9 p.m. either Friday or Saturday. If you make the first cut, be ready to do a little standing around-believe us, it's worth the price of the potential glory you'll get.

Friday, for the Michael Jackson-themed contest:

Invincible: Bring on the iconic transformations, and dress as a celebrity or superhero.

Bad: Put simply, transform yourself into the King of Pop.

Thriller: Dress as your scariest self.

You Are Not Alone: Best couples costume! Dress as your favorite dynamic duo.


Fantastic Fiction: Bring a character to life.

Not A Person, Not A Place, But A Thing: Dress as a creative object.

Front Page Fashion: Bring a fierce runway look.

Scared to Death: Fierce and frightening

The More The Merrier: Grab your friends and vie for best group costume.

Highballer's Choice: Audience favorite-the crowd crowns the winner.

The winner in each category walks away with $250 cash.

Your emcees for both nights are none other than Columbus Alive cover girl Nina West and film buff/all-around personality Johnny DiLoretto. Sure, they'll introduce musical acts and the runway shows, but look for them to do a little entertaining of their own, too.

Buy tickets online until 11:59 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 22, or buy at the gate either day of the festival. General admission is $10 (though you'll get in free if you show up before 7 p.m.), and VIP packages are available for $50.

Friday, Oct. 23

6 p.m. Happy Hour, with free admission until 7 p.m.

8 p.m. Angela Perley & The Howlin' Moons

9 p.m. The Floorwalkers

10 p.m. On the Rocks Michael Jackson Public Costume Contest

10:45 p.m. Who's Bad, the ultimate Michael Jackson tribute band

12:30 a.m. Last call

1 a.m. Closing time

Saturday, Oct. 24

6 p.m. Happy Hour, with free admission until 7 p.m.

8 p.m. The Original Soundtrack

9 p.m. MojoFlo

10 p.m. Costume Couture Fashion Show

11:15 Public Costume Contest

12:30 a.m. Last call

1 a.m. Closing time

Plus: The Amazing Giants local stilt-walking group, the dance and puppet stylings of Bruce Hanners and Leigh Lotocki, and Fire & Flow LED Dancers performing on the street all night, both nights.

Like many of you, we googled "DIY Halloween costume" and got results that ran the gamut from good to bad to just plain ugly. We did find a few diamonds in the rough, though. Popsugar has some cute, punny costumes for gals, plus listicles for DIY Halloween decorations and party ideas. Esquire has good ideas for dudes. Buzzfeed has good inspiration for group costumes. Huffington Post's list is a mixed bag (please don't dress as Ariana Huffington). For a one-stop shop on costume and makeup tutorials for anyone, Pinterest is the place. Oh, and don't miss this week's List, where we tell you what not to wear this year.


6 p.m.-1 a.m. Friday and Saturday, Oct. 23 and 24

High Street, between Goodale Street and Nationwide Boulevard