Gahanna favorite offers family fun

When the Creekside Blues & Jazz Festival began, it was a half-day event designed to draw attention to the newly revitalized Creekside Park in Gahanna.

Now in its 19th year, the annual three-day festival, known for drawing big-name acts, is a major event on the Central Ohio music scene. The event continues to showcase Creekside, which has undergone even more renovations in the last decade.

This year the festival, scheduled June 16-18, will feature the Will Freed Band with John Popper, Willie Phoenix, Sugar Creek Bluegrass, the Urban Jazz Coalition and MojoFlo.

Organizers try to book a mix of new acts and known crowd-pleasers, said Laurie Jadwin, executive director of the Gahanna Convention & Visitors Bureau. “The challenge for us is there are so many festival fan favorites,” she said. “You have to walk that fine line of wanting to introduce new acts and bring back people who the fans love every year.”

But it's not just about the music. Organizers work hard to ensure that the event, which usually occurs over Father's Day weekend, is suitable for all ages. “That's one of the things we do take pride in with regards to the festival: We consistently hear people describe it as family-friendly,” Jadwin said. “It has become a tradition for so many families.”

In addition to music, the festival features rides, food trucks, vendors and a chance to kayak or paddleboat on Big Walnut Creek. A free Family Fun Zone offers crafts, face painting, games and other activities, and the Musical Discovery Zone allows young visitors to handle and try different instruments and participate in interactive performances. The fun zone, which is open noon to 5 p.m. June 17 and noon to 4 p.m. June 18, is at Veterans Memorial Park, 73 W. Johnstown Road. Visitors here do not need to pay festival admission.

Jadwin said the Family Fun Zone is a great resource because kids learn without realizing it. The idea is to expose them to music and get them thinking about playing an instrument. “It's educating them in a very fun way,” she said. “I don't think you can have a festival that attracts local, national and international musical acts unless you allow children to fall in love with music.”