For most people, travel is fun or a work necessity. For others, travel is an obsession. Kristian Campana, founder of Ohiofestivals.net, started blogging about festivals in 2009 to help satisfy his travel bug. Since then, he has driven enough miles to circle the globe once. Later this month, he will celebrate his 300th festival at The Festival of Trees in Wooster. Although it won’t be a typical festival with funnel cakes and carnival rides, Campana says it will be a fitting milestone festival. “My birthday is Christmas Eve, so a holiday festival will make it more personal. It may even take the edge off of turning 40.”
We checked in with Kristian to find out more about him and the Ohio festivals he loves.
Occupation: Accountant/Italian translator/Writer
Bio: Kristian Campana is the creator and writer of OhioFestivals.net, a blog where he has documented nearly 300 festivals in Ohio since 2009. He resides in Oberlin with his wife Julia and their son Max (born in 2012), who will most likely become a funnel cake junkie.
What’s your travel obsession? I love to explore both local and international communities. Even my nightly dreams put me in situations where I’m driving a car, hanging out at an airport or taking a train.
I’m also fascinated with people, their cultures, their customs and regional cuisine. I love talking to the locals and checking out the shops, markets and downtown areas to see what communities have to offer.
It’s possible that I’m just nosey.
What was the first moment you realized you had this obsession? Probably in college. I had a lot of international friends, thanks to my active involvement with college organizations and my job as an English tutor, and I really enjoyed talking about their native countries, pop culture and especially their food.
Being from Lorain, Ohio, a steel town with a history as a melting pot, I feel that I’ve always had a curiosity and respect for other cultures, but my college years really made me realize that I wanted to go out and explore them first-handedly rather than simply be told about them.
What inspired your festival obsession? I had just gone on a wonderful one-week road trip in Ireland, driving through the small towns and seeing the sites. When I returned home, it was still early summer and I didn’t want to spend my remaining summer weekends at home. So I went to a few local festivals as a thing to do and just really enjoyed it.
In the following weeks, I researched some festivals a little further out and turned them into fun road trips.
It just stemmed off from there. In a nutshell – that crazy travel bug.
How many times have you indulged your obsession? Definitely over 300!
Top 3 favorite websites related to your obsession: I often check Discover Ohio, the Ohio Festivals and Events Association, and the Ohio Traveler – but that’s usually to help me gather dates and find other festivals I may not be aware of. I actually use my own Festival Schedule Page for all my festival planning.
Name 3 things that you have to bring with you on your festival travels: My camera, a water bottle and my cell phone. I travel pretty light.
Favorite festival experience: I have two. The first was meeting Neil Zurcher, the host of One Tank Trips, at a Romanian festival in Cleveland. I remember being very nervous and him being very gracious. We’ve been friends ever since and he’s been both a source of inspiration and support.
My second was celebrating my 100th festival at the Holiday CircleFest in Cleveland with my wife and family. After a TV interview, we went around the museums in University Circle, took part in the festival activities and ate some fantastic sushi for dinner. Just a perfect day!
Worst festival experience: Just a festival day where everything went wrong. It rained all day, the second festival turned out to be craft show, the third festival was cancelled and I just gave up in the end with some bad grocery store sushi.
I ended up driving the long way home through Amish country and just tried to reflect during the seemingly wasted day. The next morning, one of my tires was completely flat – the thread had separated – and I now feel really fortunate for not having gotten into a wreck while in Amish country.
Of course, I wrote all about this on another blog because it was just that bad of a day.
Most embarrassing festival experience: I was at the Yankee Peddler Festival in Canal Fulton and there was vendor who sold old-fashioned wooden board games. I went into her booth and snapped a photo for my blog post. When she came rushing in and angrily asking me if I had taken a picture, I was taken aback.
Being that I didn’t realize that it would be an issue in that situation, I simply apologized and deleted the photo in front of her. I didn’t bother explaining why I took it and how I attach the vendor’s website to the photo.
What’s on your festival bucket list? I’d really like to attend a chicken festival (there are two that I know about in Ohio) and the Annie Oakley Festival in Greenville. For something more substantial, writing a book or creating a festival would also be fantastic. I think it would be awesome to start one!
Best travel tip: Verify festival information before attending, keeping in mind that Ohio could have two or more towns with the same name.
Favorite travel quote: “Please be a traveler, not a tourist. Try new things, meet new people, and look beyond what’s right in front of you. Those are the keys to understanding this amazing world we live in.” – Andrew Zimmern