Armed with a battery-powered fan on her lap and another around her neck, Karen Hunt, 54, of Groveport, bopped to the music in her red lawn chair.
Most other visitors to the 2019 Jazz & Rib Fest congregated in the shade to escape the heat, but not Hunt. She sat dead-center in front of the Genoa Park Stage.
“I want to see the performers’ faces,” Hunt said. “It shows a tone of respect for them, shows them I appreciate their music.”
Running along the Scioto Mile Downtown, the annual Jazz & Rib Fest pairs fresh-cooked barbecue ribs with smooth live jazz. Despite an excessive heat warning in effect until 8 p.m. Saturday, issued by the National Weather Service, festival attendees and barbecue pitmasters are not deterred.
Hunt, a registered nurse at Nationwide Children’s Hospital, knows the danger of being out in the heat for too long. But still, she plans on attending all three days of the festival, which runs from through Sunday. Admission to the festival is free.
“I plan on drinking a bottle of water every 30 minutes to an hour,” she said. “But I wouldn’t miss this. I take off work for this.”
Temperatures will push into triple digits this weekend with highs of 95 degrees both Friday and Saturday, said Jeff Sites, meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Wilmington. The maximum heat index will reach 106 degrees Friday and 109 degrees Saturday, and will only cool off slightly on Sunday with a high of 92 and a maximum heat index of 102 degrees.
But heat is nothing new for the festival, which always takes place during this time of year, said Brian Hoyt, a spokesman for Columbus Recreation and Parks.
“We always anticipate that it’s going to be hot,” Hoyt said. “We have the fountains at Bicentennial Park and giant misters.”
Hoyt said the heat hasn’t operationally affected the festival, which runs from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 11 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. Sunday. Festival goers are allowed to bring in coolers with non-alcoholic beverages and are reminded to hydrate even before becoming thirsty.
For the pitmasters preparing the meat, the heat is nothing new. Kreig Rowe, an owner of Bad Wolf Barbecue, from Kansas City originally but now operating out of Ontario, said his rig cooked at Canada Day in Toronto last year. He said temperatures reached 52 degrees Celsius, which is upwards of 125 degrees Fahrenheit.
“They were comparing it to Egypt,” Rowe said. “It was absolutely deadly.”
Rowe keeps his crew energized with loud music and ice-cold drinks to make it through the long days in front of the grill.
But for Wyatt Douglas, who has been working at Bad Wolf for about six months, overcoming the heat is simply a mental game.
“I love pointing to people and dancing,” Douglas said. “It’s about keeping people happy.”