Things to See and Do in and Around Columbus in August

From the Ohio State Fair to Pelotonia to concerts and festivals, entertainment is aplenty over the next few weeks in Central Ohio.

Columbus Monthly
The Ohio State Fair takes place July 27 to Aug. 7, 2022.

Comeback Spotlight: Ohio State Fair, July 27–Aug. 7 

Ohio Expo Center & State Fair 

It’s OK—admit it: During the past two years, you’ve missed the butter cow at the Ohio State Fair. With no state fair taking place in 2020, and a much-reduced version that only featured livestock competitions in 2021, that wonderfully excessive emblem of the dairy industry has been absent from the fair in recent years. 

This year, organizers promise the return of the butter cow and much more. “You can expect the full Ohio State Fair this summer,” says spokesperson Alicia Shoults. “It’ll be a great opportunity to rediscover some of those favorite traditions: the butter cow or Smokey Bear greeting you by name, deep-fried food on sticks, three entertainment stages, indoor activities, outdoor activities [and] all the livestock shows.” 

Not that the event will merely be a nostalgia fest. Among new features this year is a space called the Dog House (located where the Showplace Pavilion was once housed). “It’s going to feature the Marvelous Mutts dog show,” Shoults says, which will include tests of agility, Frisbee tricks and dock-diving. Canine trainers will be on hand to offer fairgoers tips to help with their own pooches’ behavior. Also new is an eight-station activity center called Little Farmers. Young people can interact with simulated animals, including a fiberglass cow, and pretend flowers. 

Of course, for some fair attendees, it’s all about the music. Organizers pulled out all the stops this year, with such performers as Nelly, with special guest Breland (July 30), Ice Cube (Aug. 4) and the legend himself, Willie Nelson (Aug. 5). “We try to get a lot of different types of music [and] a diversity in genres,” Shoults says. “There’s something for all different types of music lovers.” 

Best of all, after two years of pandemic-related cancellations and delays, organizers expect that the only thing that would dampen attendance numbers, which usually hover in the range of 800,000 to 900,000, is the weather. “If it’s a beautiful, sunny fair, we’ll have lots of attendance,” Shoults says, “and if it’s rainy days, we do see our attendance go down.” Gate admission $8–$10, concerts and some other activities extra, —Peter Tonguette 

Willie Nelson will perform Aug. 5 at the Ohio State Fair.

Willie Nelson, Aug. 5 

Ohio Expo Center and State Fair 

At 89, the country music legend and Texas native is on the road again, performing at the Ohio State Fair. Here’s hoping for a few tunes from Red Headed Stranger. 

The Dublin Irish Festival welcomes the Red Hot Chilli Pipers this year.

Dublin Irish Festival, Aug. 5-7 

Coffman Park 

Always one of the most tuneful offerings of the summer, the festival will feature numerous national acts, including the Celtic group Gaelic Storm and the Scottish bagpipe-and-drums ensemble the Red Hot Chilli Pipers, as well as local dance groups and pipe bands converging on Coffman Park. $10 to $35, 

Pelotonia, Aug. 5-7 

Central Ohio 

The beloved bicycle event will return to its traditional format, including in-person rides, a big opening ceremony and overnight stays at Kenyon College for those participating in longer treks. 

Thrity Umrigar, Aug. 6 

Thurber House 

Thurber House’s Summer Literary Picnic series welcomes this bestselling author for a discussion of her latest novel, “Honor.” Attendees can ask questions, purchase books and get them signed at the event. 

Tom Fennessy/Mike Harden Back-to-School Project, Aug. 6 and 13 

NSG/Pilkington North America 

This nonprofit, named after two late Columbus Dispatch writers, seeks volunteers to help fill more than 11,000 backpacks with donated school supplies. 

ProMusica Chamber Orchestra SummerFest, Aug. 9, 11-12 

Alum Creek Amphitheater, Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens 

ProMusica is spreading the classical-music wealth this year: The ensemble will bring its annual outdoor concert festival, SummerFest, to two spots over four days: the Alum Creek Amphitheater in Westerville on Tuesday and the Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens on Thursday and Friday. Free, 

All Ohio Balloon Fest takes place at the Union County Airport each August.

All Ohio Balloon Fest, Aug. 11-13 

Union County Airport 

Hot air balloons shaped like Darth Vader and Jedi master Yoda are just the most visually dynamic component of the annual festival at the Union County Airport in Marysville, which this year will also host Bret Michaels on Thursday and Niko Moon on Friday. $20.99 to $219.99, 

Armando Román, Aug. 12-Sept. 2 

Roy G Biv gallery  

Franklinton’s Roy G Biv gallery has selected Armando Román for its inaugural ROY Residency, which features emerging, nonwhite artists. The two-month residency culminates with a mixed-media exhibition opening Aug. 12. 

Symphony Gala, Aug. 13 

Quantum Health 

The annual fundraiser for the Columbus Symphony, held this year at the Dublin headquarters of Quantum Health, will honor Nationwide CEO Kirt Walker and his wife, Cindy. 

Festival Latino returns to Genoa Park Aug. 13-14

Festival Latino, Aug. 13-14 

Genoa Park 

From music to art to food, Latin American culture in all of its diversity will be celebrated over an entire weekend at Genoa Park. Particulars on this year’s festival were not available at press time. Free, 

David Baker with Maggie Smith, Aug. 16 

Gramercy Books 

In the title poem of “Whale Fall,” Granville poet David Baker follows a whale’s carcass to the ocean floor. Fellow poet Maggie Smith joins Baker in conversation at Gramercy Books. 

Kendrick Lamar, Aug. 16 

Schottenstein Center 

Hip-hop’s Pulitzer Prize-winning prodigy embarks on The Big Steppers Tour with more introspective compositions layered over sleek R&B. 

August Wilson’s “King Hedley II,” Aug. 18-Sept. 4  

Schiller Park 

The Actors’ Theatre of Columbus will close its season at Schiller Park with one of the lesser-known plays from Wilson’s masterful Pittsburgh Cycle. 

Columbus Food Truck Festival, Aug. 19-21 

Franklin County Fairgrounds 

More than 50 gourmet food trucks will be represented in the 11th edition of the festival, which will be held at the Franklin County Fairgrounds in Hilliard. While you sample assorted trucks’ eats, drift over to the main stage for the musical stylings of Willie Phoenix on Friday, Angela Perley on Saturday and The Winnie Cooper Project on Sunday. An acoustic stage features numerous other artists. $5 to $10, 

CBUS Soul Fest, Aug. 20 

Bicentennial Park 

Head to Bicentennial Park from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. to celebrate the city’s Black culture, music, history and more at this new collaboration between Experience Columbus and the city’s Recreation and Parks Department. 

Leon Bridges, Aug. 21 

Kemba Live 

The soul singer, whose latest record, Gold–Diggers Sound, was a Grammy nominee for Best R&B Album, will perform along with Swedish electronic music band Little Dragon at Kemba Live. $59 and up, 

Racquets for RMHC, Aug. 25 

Country Club at Muirfield Village 

Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central Ohio will host a “play and party” fundraiser at the Country Club at Muirfield Village’s tennis and pickleball facility, featuring music, drinks, appetizers and more. 

Breakaway Music Festival, Aug. 26-28 

Historic Crew Stadium 

Multiple musical genres will be represented in this year’s edition of the festival at the Historic Crew Stadium. Among the groups featured are The Chainsmokers, Lane 8, Jauz Off the Deep End and Night Tales. Passes start at $109, 

The Lumineers - Jeremiah Fraites, left, and Wesley Schultz - will perform in Columbus at Wonderbus.

WonderBus Music and Arts Festival, Aug. 26-28 

The Lawn at CAS 

The headliners—Duran Duran on Friday, Lorde on Saturday and The Lumineers on Sunday—may get all the ink, but the festival on The Lawn at CAS is packed with other acts, as well as art activities and plenty to eat, too. $49 to $239, 

Columbus Fiery Foods Festival, Aug. 27-28 

Main Street Bridge, Downtown Columbus 

Add some spice to your life at the festival on the Main Street Bridge in which restaurants show off their hottest offerings (literally) and vendors offer everything from hot sauces to salsas. The festival also includes contests and live entertainment, but newbies may want to bring along some bottled water. $5 to $10, 

Interpol/Spoon, Aug. 30 

Kemba Live 

With assistance from Australian trio The Goon Sax, indie-rock heavyweights Interpol and Spoon will take the stage at Kemba Live to showcase their jam-packed discographies.