Columbus people love to talk about things that come from Columbus. Maybe this is because we feel the need to prove ourselves to the rest of the country.
Sure, we’re flat, land-locked, and surrounded by farms, but have you ever heard of Jeni’s Ice Cream? Yeah. Her Salty Caramel flavor is nationally known. Guess what? Jeni’s is based in COLUMBUS. Boom! Drop the mic, leave the stage.
I am not into sports. I am, however, into meat. Cheap meat on a bun. The Columbus Clippers, formerly the farm team for the New York Yankees, host a variety of promotional game nights to attract more fans. There’s a new stadium now, which has brought in more paying customers over the past few years, but I remember when the main allure was sucking down hot dogs faster than you could say, “Spare a dime?”
You later learned that Arnold Schwarzenegger, and thousands of oiled-up muscle bros, descend on the capital city every spring for the Arnold Fitness Classic. After this amped-up epic event, the golf pants emerged for Jack Nicklaus’ Memorial Tournament. Thus Tiger Woods and Arnold Schwarzenegger have been forever woven into the fabric of the city.
No one was immune to enjoying deep-fried Twinkies and fried mashed potatoes on a stick at the Ohio State Fair. I was no exception. I squealed at the pig races, winked at farm boys shearing sheeps’ asses, watched Pat Benatar and Grand Funk Railroad perform, and then ventured over to an artistic masterpiece: THE BUTTER COW, a tradition since 1903.
The full sculpture required around 8,000 sticks of butter to make, and usually featured a cow, a calf, and several farmers. It’s still constructed annually to honor Ohio’s dairy history.
My lack of enthusiasm for sports hindered my social experience as a Columbus kid. I grew up in utter dread that someone would hear me say anything negative about OSU. When the team lost, I recall crazed fans clad head-to-toe in Scarlet and Grey burning couches in front yards and setting dumpster fires in alleys. Buckeyes lose, fans set things on fire. Just normal, demonic fan behavior.
“Jungle Jack” Hanna, with his signature khaki outfit and mega-tan, was responsible for making the Columbus Zoo into the reputable place it is today. As a child, I delighted in rushing as fast as I could to the reptile room to gawk at the king cobras, then racing to put a Madagascar hissing cockroach in my little grubby fingers.
What the hell was wrong with me? Anyway, the zoo experience was a must for any Columbusite. You didn’t need to touch weird things like I did. In the winter, when the animals were tucked away in their beds, you had the option to freeze your ass off viewing the elaborately beautiful Christmas lights displayed on the zoo grounds.
Many people I knew growing up had the luxury of going to “Put-In-Bay” for family vacations when they were young, and more recently for weekend getaways and bachelor / bachelorette parties. The Lake Erie vacation spot was the closest “beach” experience Columbus kids could get. You just had to drive northbound past the cornfields and then past…more cornfields…and you arrived at a sort-of-beach!
The name makes it sound like a swingers resort: “Put-It-In-Bay-Be.” My Columbus peers insist it’s just a fun place to ride jet skis and drink beer on a boat.
Columbus has a large German population. In the heart of the German Village District shines Schmidt’s Sausage Haus: a shimmery meat beacon that has been providing C-Bussers with happy-heart-attack meals for many years. I still don’t understand why the classic German sausage item on the menu is called the “Bahama Mama,” but some things I just stopped questioning the longer I lived in Columbus.
Every year, Columbus hosts Community Festival, or ComFest. The progressive event began in the 1970s in support of “[C]ooperation and collective activity rather than competition and individual profit.” The people of Columbus congregate at Goodale Park to hear live music, sample local food, view artist demonstrations, and attend environmental awareness seminars.
And drink. And gawk at painted, naked bosoms of women young and old, of every shape and size. It’s part of the ComFest experience.