When a Festival Meets an Assembly
When I have had the privilege of traveling to another city to go to General Assembly (GA), I have often wondered what that city will be like when I get there. Knowing a bit about where I am going and what I am walking into is helpful. And it just so happens that this year, GA is in a place I am extremely familiar with – Columbus, OH.
Here in Columbus, the weekend during General Assembly, June 24th-26th, features a large city-wide festival, ComFest. And since ComFest is happening during General Assembly, I thought I’d write to our youth community to let you know a bit about the festivities.A Brief Overview of ComFest
The annual ComFest, or Community Festival, happens in Goodale Park just a couple blocks away from the Greater Columbus Convention Center and is the largest independent volunteer-run festival in the country. This outdoor festival celebrates collective action and is grounded in principles of environmentalism, working for the collective good, acknowledging basic necessities of life, and fighting oppression. The festival features musical performances, daily healing arts, presentations from activists, workshops, food trucks and tables for local community organizations.
I want to make sure you know the context of ComFest before choosing whether or not to participate. In Unitarian Universalist (UU) community, where consent is valued, consent begins with having as much information in hand as possible now, so your decision whether or not to attend ComFest is a fully informed decision. It is also important to know, especially for our fabulous UU youth and sponsors, that ComFest openly serves alcoholic beverages. There are also times when people use illegal drugs at ComFest. Also, the law in Columbus allows that events happening in city parks are clothing optional, so some folks will walk around without wearing a shirt.Recommendations for Youth Sponsors
I understand this news might come as a bit of a surprise to you, dear youth sponsors. You have signed up to bring youth from your congregation to General Assembly, for which all are grateful, and now you find out there is a huge festival happening near the Greater Columbus Convention Center that weekend.
Here’s my recommendation:
- Learn more about ComFest. Get informed! Visit the ComFest website.
- Intentionally talk with your youth about ComFest. Hear the youth out about whether they want to attend. Present your honest opinions about whether to attend.
- Create a covenant about attending ComFest. Should your youth want to attend, create agreements with one another about when and with whom. My recommendation is to go during the daytime, as nighttime is when there is usually more party-heavy behavior. My recommendation is also that youth not go to ComFest alone but be accompanied by you or another sponsor.
I understand this news might also come as a surprise to you, dear youth planning to attend General Assembly. You may be interested in attending ComFest given many of the social justice and community-oriented aspects to this festival. You may also feel hesitant to go. Both responses are certainly understandable.
Here’s what I recommend for a course of action:
- Learn a bit more about ComFest. Get informed! Read the ComFest website.
- Intentionally talk with your sponsor and your parents/guardians about your feelings about attending ComFest. Be honest with yourself and others. Don’t hesitate to share any drawbacks or advantages you see in attending.
- Create a covenant or agreement about attending ComFest. Should you want to go, be explicit about when and where you will be. Make sure to not attend ComFest at night, as it is known to be dangerous.
- Should you choose to go, be mindful of the decisions others in the youth community at GA are making. Taking part in ComFest certainly could be exciting but maybe not a good option for all youth.
When talking about safety, I like to use the term “safer,” as we all know there is no guarantee of complete safety anywhere. Each day, when we leave our homes, we are taking risks.
My desire is for people of all ages to create a safer and inclusive community each year at General Assembly. We come together each year, in a new configuration, with people who have been attending GA forever and with people who are attending for the first time. It is a truly unique youth community we create at GA. So, let’s come together and make it a safer community for all who want to partake at General Assembly.
Looking forward to seeing you for GA 2016 in Columbus!
Leave your questions about ComFest in the comments and we’ll do our best to answer!