Meet A Man Eating His Way Across Ohio. Festival by Festival

During the next several months along with our trips we will be doing some interviews with other bloggers and journalists who specialize in travel and tourism here in Ohio.  These are people you should know about if you plan to take the family on a One Tank Trip this summer.  They offer a wealth of ideas and can give you a peek at places and events you may have never dreamed existed here in the Buckeye State.

 We start this week with a Lorain, Ohio, blogger by the name of Kristian Campana who has made it his goal to visit every festival in Ohio.  His title has the unlikely name of www.300poundadventures.blogspot.com

       How did the blog, “Adventures of a trapped 300 pound man” begin?

 I had just returned from a wonderful trip in Ireland where I was driving all around the country and staying in various small towns.  When I got back, the travel bug never went away and I started checking out area festivals on weekends.  A festival here or there was typical for me, especially since there are so many in Lorain and Cuyahoga counties.  But I found myself venturing a little further out and going to them more frequently. 

 During all of this, I’m telling my friends about my experiences and they’re telling me to write it all down.  By the time I got to 14 festivals, I decided to start my blog.  But I wanted to write about more than only festivals, especially since I wasn’t sure how deep I wanted to go with it.  So I decided to incorporate all my adventures with food, including recipes, strange dishes I came across, and my methods to burn the calories off.

 I titled the blog “Adventures of a trapped 300 pound man” after something a friend said to me after I shared one of my food-related stories.  Apparently, to the belief of my friend, there must have been a 300 pound man inside of me trying to get out.

   When did it start?

 In 2009.
  How many festivals in Ohio have you attended?  How many counties are represented?

Since last year, I’ve been to 117 different Ohio festivals in 42 counties.  This year alone, I should have about 102 festivals or so by year end.

   What do you look for most in a festival?

Since there are so many different types of festivals, this can be a bit complex.  Overall, though, I would say that I look for unique qualities in each festival.  Sometimes this can refer to the actual theme of the festival, like the Skunk Festival or the Twins Day Festival.  For others, it may be how the festival’s theme item (ie pumpkin) is utilized as decor, gift ideas, food items, and even clothing. 

 I want that uniqueness to give some new awareness to the festival goer, whether through teaching or showing a new or different way to celebrate a theme/item/idea.

  What was your favorite festival?  Why?

 I would have to say Com Fest in Columbus.  It’s really unlike most of the other festivals I’ve attended.  It exists solely on the assistance of volunteers and local support and its objectives focus on eliminating prejudice and strengthening the community.  As a result, more than 70,000 people from varied lifestyles come together to celebrate the same thing.

 And since these people are so varied, the booths and entertainment that cater to them is also varied, meaning a great selection.

 There’s also a particular feeling at Com Fest that makes you feel welcome. I think that’s really special.
  What was the most disappointing event?  Why?

 In general, my disappointment comes from my own expectations.  For some festivals, I thought they could have done more with the theme.  Sometimes I got an idea from the website, only to find the festival to be something completely different.

 But if I did have to name a specific festival, I’d say the Potato Festival in Mantua.  I tried to get into the town from three different directions/roads and, each time, I was waved away by police.  The third time, I asked the officer what was going on and she responded that the city didn’t allow any entry during the parade.  Since the parade had just started, I decided to leave to another festival.
  For a family how expensive are the average festivals?  Do you have a limit on what you will spend?

For a family of 4, I would imagine around $25-30 for food and drink.  Many items are around $5 and bottle water is usually $1.  If each member wants a dessert, add another $5 per person.  Of course, this doesn’t include games, rides or souvenirs, so it can get costly if you don’t watch it.

 For myself, I don’t have a limit, but I’m usually very mindful of my spending.  If I really like a festival, I may buy a souvenir or two.  And more often than not, I’ll spend some money to try a strange new food that I come across.  But there are many festivals where I didn’t purchase anything.

   Your most memorable experience at a festival?

Participating in the Meatball Eating Contest at the Dean Martin Festival in Steubenville.  I had just come from a Greek festival down the road where I ate lunch, so I wasn’t even hungry.  But not many people were signing up and I thought, “Why not?”

 On that particular day, it was roasting hot and the competition was under the sun.  We couldn’t use our hands or drink water, so getting the meatballs down became really difficult.  I just kept chewing and chewing.

 I didn’t win it, but I was the only one to walk away with my bowl of meatballs and finish them off at my own pace.

   Where do you get your information about festivals?  How far ahead do you plan your trips?

I look everywhere.  DiscoverOhio.com is a great resource, as is ofea.org (Ohio Festivals and Events Association).  After that, I grab whatever travel brochures I can get from tourism offices and turnpike plazas, I get some great tips from friends, and I put Google alerts out there so I can stay current on new festivals.

  It has been said that Ohio has more festivals than any other state.  How do you feel about that statement?

Based on my own experiences, I would like to say that this is true.  We definitely have the perfect state for different types of festivals.  Our industry has brought waves of immigration, which has brought us cultural festivals.  Our agriculture has led to various festivals dealing with our crops.  And there are also many historical festivals that pay homage to events, trails, or ways of life.

 But it’s so difficult to get an accurate count of how many festivals Ohio actually has.  I still hear about festivals that are new to me, even after all of my research and resources.  Therefore, I can’t help but remain uncertain without having a better sense of number of festivals in other states.

  Who usually accompanies you to a festival?

My fiancé has accompanied me to nearly half of them.  My mom, uncle, and aunt have also come along to a few.  The rest of the festivals I’ve attended alone, especially during big festival weekends where I keep a stricter schedule.  This way, no one wants to kill me by the end of the day.

   What do you do in the winter months when there are not as many festivals?

Well, this winter I’ll probably get back to oil painting a bit and work on the website.  Otherwise, I still find activities out there in the community, even if they’re not necessarily festivals.  Maybe I’m just a restless spirit.

   Do you have some tips on how a family can get the most out of visiting a festival?

Do some research.  Almost all festival websites have a schedule.  Find what activities are most appealing to you and go around that time.  For bigger festivals, it wouldn’t hurt to print out a map and see what foods sound good so you’re not walking back and forth fifteen times before you figure what’s for lunch.  And share, especially if you go to an ethnic festival.  Get a bunch of little dishes and share with each other to get as much varied experience as possible.

  Tell me a bit about yourself.

 I was born and raised in Lorain, but have lived in New York City and Italy.  I do IT related work for the family business while also proofreading/translating for a school in Italy.

I went to the University of Findlay for my BA (English and Communications) and Bowling Green State University for my MFA (Creative Writing).

I speak Italian fluently, paint (oil), cook and travel.

I’m 36 (turning 37 this month) and I’m getting married next year to the girl I was with at the Romanian festival (good thing I didn’t take her to those big festival weekends!). :-)

Again, you can visit Kris’s blog at http://www. 300poundadventures.blogspot.com

 Remember festivals can sometimes be affected by the weather and it’s always a good idea to check the festival website to discover any last minute changes or additions to their program.  Also remember, check the dates, don’t be like the viewer who watched my report on Fox 8 about a rural festival that had run six months before.  They didn’t listen and drove several hours to get there only to find they were six months late and the only thing they found as they put it, “was a dog sleeping in the middle of the street.”

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