December 7, 2012 10:19:53 AM
This evening, downtown Columbus will be the site of the ninth annual Wassail Fest.
While there many events on the calendar, Wassail Fest stands apart as something of a marvel.
Twenty-eight downtown businesses will actively participate in this year's event. Stores which are normally shuttered by nightfall will stay open until the end of the event at 9 p.m.
Thousands of people will raise a glass of Christmas cheer, drawing the kinds of crowds to downtown seldom seen.
It is unlikely those who run Main Street Columbus, which has organized the event, could have imagined what a success Wassail Fest would turn out to be. For outgoing Main Street Director Amber Brislin, tonight's event will be her last Wassail Fest. She is as amazed as anyone at the event's growth, recalling that in 2007, there were 12 participating businesses to more than twice that many this year. The participants aren't just restaurants, either. All kinds of businesses -- including The Dispatch, which will treat visitors to Wassail Pops, have joined the fun. (Also at The Dispatch, historian and Dispatch columnist Rufus Ward will be signing his just-published book.)
Without minimizing the efforts of Main Street Columbus, it's pretty clear Wassail Fest is one of those rare events that seems to have grown almost organically. For some reason, it captured the attention and imagination of the city. The growth of the event testifies to that.
It is also refreshing in the sense you never see anyone showing up at the Columbus Convention and Visitors Bureau with hat in their hand, soliciting taxpayer money to finance Wassail Fest.
It doesn't rely on taxpayer largesse. It doesn't bolster anyone's political standing, either.
It just succeeds because it is something residents enjoy year after year. By word of mouth, Wassail Fest has become synonymous with the Christmas season in Columbus.
We'll raise a cup of Christmas cheer to that.