From Sparx City Hop to IngenuityFestival, Clevelanders enjoy celebrating their city outdoors. Of course, most of these festivals happen when it’s warmer outside – the summer and fall see the bulk of them. When winter rolls around, it means it’s usually time to escape inside from the blustery cold.
The organizers behind the Brite Winter Festival wanted to change that when they put the first Brite Winter together last year. With art, music, and games, they wanted to highlight the creativity that abounds in Cleveland and to promote the idea that it is possible to have fun outside in the middle of February.
For more background on how the event got started, there’s an article on Fresh Water Cleveland worth checking out. Personally, I love how the idea came about after one of the founders was asked “What are you doing when you graduate and leave Cleveland.” Fighting brain drain (i.e. keeping college students from leaving post-graduation) is a problem in a lot of cities, but I’ve found it to be the case in Cleveland in particular. I’m really happy that Brite Winter started as a few students’ proactive approach in encouraging others to stay by giving them something else to do on the weekend.
After last year’s successful debut, this year’s Brite Winter Festival took place on Saturday night at Hart Crane Memorial Park. Scott and I headed over for a couple hours to enjoy the festivities.
What got me out to the Flats was the promise of mini-golf and over-sized skeeball because I’m a sucker for games. Brite Winter did not disappoint as I got in a round of putt-putt and launched a soccer ball down the skeeball ramp a few times. Although the mini-golf course was designed to have snow as the turf, players adapted to Saturday’s snowless surface. The obstacles were a fantastic mashup of wood planks, pipes, rocks and other recycled refuse.
While I was able to hold my own with putt-putt (brushing up on my rusty skills from when I actually played golf), my skeeball attempts were not so stellar. I was able to launch the soccer ball up the ramp a couple times but couldn’t score. After trying our hand at that, we warmed ourselves by the fire, made smores and Scott mastered the giant claw machine – an interesting contraption of string, levers and pulleys – to win a travel mug.
Of course, it’s not a festival in Cleveland unless the event features some of our excellent music offerings. There was the main stage under the bridge which featured a number of bands throughout the evening. In addition to that there was the ‘bubble stage’ in one of the ‘ice cubes’ or inflatable decompression cubes scattered throughout the festival. The bubble stage hosted a rotation of solo and small group performers.
My favorite part of the evening was being treated to an up-close concert with ukulele player Amy Fish. She played a few bluegrass tunes and chatted with the handful of people who were in the cube with her. She also invited any ukulele players to join her and the rest of the Ukulele Club on the last Tuesday of every month at 7:30pm at the Coventry Library. It’s open to players of all skill level to meet up, play and share their love for the instrument.
Although it was slightly disappointing the snow had all melted earlier in the week, the organizers and volunteers of Brite Winter adapted to the weather and made everything work. While I couldn’t stick around for the whole evening or the Tequilla Ranch afterparty (as a non-native Clevelander I’m still working on improving my resilience against the cold), we had a great time. It was another example of an inventive community coming up with a clever idea and having a good time while they put it into action — my number one reason for loving this city as much as I do.
Brite Winter Festival 411: