My first real taste of Columbus was two years ago this weekend during a visit that coincided with the Biggest Block Party Ever.
The Fourth and Washington streets area was packed, virtually a few steps from my Hotel Indigo room, and the city was rocking with great food, great music and fun-loving people enjoying a great time together.
I thought this is a place where I would enjoy living.
The front page of the Sunday Republic that weekend had a great profile of hometown hero Tony Stewart, who would be climbing into his race car later that day to compete in the 19th running of the Brickyard 400.
On the back page of the main news section, The Republic published one photograph of Block Party chalk artists — and that was the extent of the coverage.
Having personally experienced how much fun the Block Party was, I sensed that the paper’s coverage fell short.
Early deadlines on any Saturday night for the big Sunday edition make it challenging to cover local events that run late. But I decided that if I were to become The Republic’s editor, I would give better coverage the next year to the Block Party.
Flip the calendar forward 12 months.
Now the newspaper’s editor, I got my chance to improve coverage of the Block Party in the summer of 2013.
Our front-page centerpiece in the Sunday edition again was on Tony Stewart. He is Tony Stewart, after all. Make that, Columbus’ Tony Stewart.
But besides Tony coverage, The Republic had a full story and several photos from the Block Party — far better than in 2012.
And this time, my wife and I invited one of my sisters and her husband to join us. We had a wonderful time showing off downtown Columbus and soaking up the atmosphere.
Flip the calendar forward another 12 months.
Here we are again — same weekend, with Block Party and the Brickyard 400 this year still sharing space on the calendar.
There is still a lot of interest in Tony Stewart, but we moved our Brickyard weekend front-page preview coverage this year to Saturday. That opened up prime space on the Sunday front page for the Biggest Block Party Ever, despite the challenge of early deadlines on Saturday night.
The Opinion page of the Sunday edition goes to press early, so I can’t provide any personal insight here on how this year’s Block Party went. Short of rain putting a damper on activities, The Republic planned to give it more attention than ever.
The downtown plaza — for all of the hassle it was to create and the inconvenience it caused on entertainment district businesses and on Columbus people while under construction for months — was a wise investment by the city that will pay even bigger dividends in the years ahead.
Block Party, now in its ninth year, may always be the granddaddy of plaza festivals in Columbus. But I suspect it’s going to be a busier place, with more weekends filled with downtown fun now that the plaza has proved to be a hit.
That means more downtown events for The Republic to cover, despite those Saturday night early deadlines.
According to the old English proverb, “Where there’s a will, there’s a way.”
And certainly there is. Today’s edition is proof.
Two years ago when my wife and I visited Columbus on this same weekend, our trip from Ohio primarily was for me to interview for the open editor’s job at The Republic.
You know how that turned out, and I am glad that it did.
Columbus is a great place to live, work and play. Our news coverage should also reflect that. This weekend is a great reminder of that.
Tom Jekel is editor of The Republic. His column appears each Sunday. You may reach him by phone at 379-5665 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.