Independently Awesome: Strong lineup of music and food helps fest expand to three days

Andy Downing, Columbus Alive

Now in its sixth year, Independents' Day, a festival designed to celebrate the independent culture and spirit of Columbus, has fully come into its own.

This year's event is bigger in every sense of the word. There are more bands, more food trucks, more exhibiting artists and generally more reasons for locals to flock Downtown to the intersection of Gay Street and Pearl Alley to soak in the good times. In order to accommodate these expanded offerings, organizers have lengthened the fest, and the whole affair will now stretch out over three glorious days, running Friday-Sunday, Sept. 20-22, rather than a single day as in previous years.

"The attendance grows every year. The amount of volunteers needed grows every year. With everything about the festival growing we thought, 'Why try to contain it?'" said fest Captain Alexis Perrone. "Then basically we decided not to."

Perrone, who attended Independents' Day for the first time when it was in its third year, said she noticed a distinct shift in attitude during the 2012 festival.

"Something clicked last year where everyone … got it," she said. "Something happened that when people got here it was like, 'Oh, these are not the redheaded stepchildren of Columbus just trying to throw a party in the street.'"

Of course, organizers have overcome this mindset simply by throwing one hell of a party in the street, and this year's roster - particularly the monster music lineup - is among the strongest collection of local talent assembled anywhere in the city this year. Perrone, for one, rightfully described it as "a crash course on what is going on here locally."

Moving forward, however, organizers don't want to limit themselves, and they're even open to bringing in bigger name national acts if it makes financial and aesthetic sense.

"As the festival grows people want to say, 'What's next?' It's a fair question, and it's one we're going to continue to ask ourselves," Perrone said. "Would I love to call up a national act? Sure. Think how many local comics and local artists we could show off to people who would come in just because of that one name.

"The people involved are big thinkers and big dreamers, and they're experts in what they do, whether it's comedy or music or film. However big we want to take this is basically just based on us. The sky is the limit. It really is."