On the surface, the annual MainSource BBQ Blues & Brew lives up to its collective name and merges three entertaining elements into one festive destination.
But, truth be told, the free, expanded downtown event this year on June 25 merges with parts of three added events for one big roundup of revelry — and one with plenty of activities for children, too.
“There’s so much more going on this year,” said Steve Leach of The Garage Pub & Grill in Columbus.
The organizers expect the increased activities will result in a crowd larger than 2015’s estimated 6,500 people.
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Leach began formulating the idea for the original gathering several years ago with business competitor and friend Kurt Schwarze, owner of Columbus’ Fourth Street Bar & Grill. This summer, the pair has been more than happy to add in the Firecracker 5K, which has been run for years in the Tipton Lakes area of Columbus, and Columbus ArtFest, which moved to a new spot on the calendar in search of cooler weather and less competition from other arts events in nearby Indianapolis.
ArtFest also runs June 26.
Additionally this year, the Columbus Young Professionals will stage the awards program for their Amazing Race competition amid the barbecue events.
Organizers of the Columbus Running Club’s Firecracker 5K, which has averaged about 150 entrants annually, wanted to find a way to draw more attention to their gathering by moving the route downtown amid the hub of activity. The running race will start at ArtFest in Mill Race Park and finish at the BBQ Blues & Brew.
Another element of publicity includes competitors racing for a $500 cash drawing from Quaff On Brewing Co.
“That’s a pretty big kicker,” said Jeff Niewedde, co-director of the race.
Leach said earlier this year that blending the events should attract more people for every event, including the third annual barbecue party featuring 16 pitmasters, more than 20 local and regional craft beers on tap, live music on stage all day and an expanded children’s play area.
“Everyone hitching their wagon together definitely is going to be a benefit,” Leach said. “This really has evolved tremendously just since last year.”
The noon to 10 p.m. smorgasbord of bands, beer and barbecue has grown steadily each year.
In the musical category, it’s even stretching beyond the blues genre.
For example, the Columbus Symphony Orchestra’s jazz ensemble will perform for the first time at the event, slated from 6 to 7 p.m.
Plus, the children’s play area expands this year with more bounce houses and a new inflatable obstacle course known as The Big Baller.
At ArtFest, Bob Anderson said the Mill Race Park setting is better both for exhibitors, who prefer to be on grass rather than blacktop, and visitors, who can more easily see more of 75 vendors’ creations within a more compact layout.
“And parking will be much easier for people at the park,” he said.
Also, Anderson likes the fact that the number of artists is up about 25 percent from last year. Anderson will be making announcements about ArtFest at BBQ Blues & Brew, and Leach will make announcements about BBQ Blues & Brew at ArtFest in order to cross-promote the events to downtown visitors.
“We believe things will be much cooler and much more comfortable for people this year,” Anderson said.
Even before the smorgasbord of events arrives, people can be a part. MainSource leaders are asking residents to name its 10-foot tall inflatable pig for barbecue bash by paying $1 to offer a moniker, with proceeds going to the Love Chapel food pantry. The winning entry earns a $100 prize from the bank.
When: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. June 25.
Where: Fourth and Washington streets in downtown Columbus.
Food: A variety of barbecue-style vendors will offer pulled pork, chicken and related fare at various prices.
Brew: More than 20 craft breweries.
11 a.m. — J.J. Reeves Band.
2:30 to 5:30 p.m. — Top Hat Blues Revue.
6 to 7 p.m. — Columbus Symphony Orchestra jazz ensemble.
7 to 10 p.m. — Fistful of Bacon.
Information: Facebook page at BBQ Blues & Brew.
Children’s activities: Bounce houses, face painting, bungee bounce, The Big Baller inflatable obstacle course.
When: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. June 25. 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. June 26.
Where: Mill Race Park on Fifth Street in downtown Columbus. A total of 75 vendors displaying painting, photography, jewelry, and a host of other artistic media.
Concessions: Snack foods and drinks.
When: 10 a.m. June 25.
Where: Race begins at Columbus ArtFest in Mill Race Park, winds around downtown and ends at BBQ Blues & Brew.
Cost: $15 to $20 per person.
Random drawing: For $500 amid the competitors.