From Findlay to Festivals: UF Alumnus’ Enthusiasm for Fun Knows No Bounds
When Kristian Campana ’96 returned from a road trip in Ireland years back, he wasn’t sure what to do with himself. It being early in the summer, with plenty of weekends to fill up with plans, there was only one problem: he didn’t have any. He noticed a few local festivals being offered, and so, to occupy some of that time, he went, apparently enjoying himself enough to look into it a bit further. “After those,” Campana said, “I started researching other festivals in my immediate area, and then Ohio in general.” He found festivals that revolved around skunks. Around Pickles, Pawpaws and sauerkraut. In short, he found quite a bit. “My curiosity had been piqued and that was that,” he said.
Now, after having attended and documented more than 500 festivals in Ohio alone, one could say that Campana has become a bona fide festival aficionado.
Campana said that in the infancy of his relationship with festivals, he stuck to those in Ohio. “Early on,” he explained, “I was amazed about how much Ohio offered and decided just to focus on the state.” He explained that, while he is still impressed with just how many festivals there are in Ohio, once he married his wife, who is from Kentucky, that opened up a world of new opportunities in new states. When he was able to expand, and started to feel like he was experienced enough to do so, he began to list and review festivals, eventually creating the Good Neighbor Program on his website. “I feel that this encourages Ohioans to go beyond our borders to explore while bringing out-of-state festival lovers in to see how great Ohio is,” he said. “For kicks, I’ve also reviewed festivals in Toronto, Canada and various festivals in Italy.”
But, how does his wife and family – the couple has two children, ages two and six – feel about all the attention he gives to festivals? Between attending the festivals, reviewing and writing about them and working on the website, it seems that family support might be difficult to come by. “While my wife doesn’t necessarily want to go to as many festivals as I do,” Campana explained, “she occasionally enjoys coming with me to an ethnic church festival or a festival with a unique theme. I don’t blame her, as I’ve gone to as many as nine in one day before. It can be intense.” And the kids? “It really depends,” Campana added. “The older one hates being out on really hot days, although lemonade, rides and games can help him change his tune. The 2-year old, meanwhile, is a pleasant festival companion.”
Campana’s time at UF, he said, had much to do with his passion for both writing and roaming. Some may think that, on the surface now, and even going back to the early to mid-90s when Campana was a student, there might not be a whole lot for a student to find in the way of exploring. According to him, however, it’s all about what you make of it. “After some time at UF, I started to explore Findlay more and see what it offered. I became very proud of the community and fell in love with it. Even today, and maybe through something I learned from my Findlay experience, I’m a huge explorer when visiting or staying in a new community.” While at UF, he wrote a column for The Pulse reviewing local restaurants on a six-dollar budget. “I really enjoyed doing that,” he said, “and it definitely planted the seeds for the festival reviews.”
Campana said that there is really no end in sight for his love of festivals. It seems there are so many, that the world is his oyster. (Yes, there is, indeed, more than one Oyster Festival to attend). To that end, his dream continues. What would he tell Findlay students who are afraid their academic endeavors will get in the way of their dreams? “It’s important to follow a path that takes you in that direction, even if it doesn’t pan out exactly as you imagine,” he said.
“I double majored in English – creative writing emphasis, and communications – broadcast journalism emphasis, with the idea that I would be a journalist until my big break as a writer. I’ve worked many different jobs since then and my current job involves IT and accounting – a far cry from both. But, through the festival blog, the dream that guided me so many years ago seemed to sneak up on me, allowing me to use both the creative writing and the journalism and bring a true sense of happiness.”
And this journey isn’t over, he said. “Who knows where else it will take me?”