MyCBJFStory: Joe Callison


To celebrate the 20th Anniversary of the Creekside Blues & Jazz Festival (CBJF) in Gahanna, Ohio (June 15-17), we’re sharing some of our favorite stories through a #MyCBJFStory series.


The Creekside Blues & Jazz Festival has become a tradition for many, even our volunteers! We’re lucky enough to have some of the most dedicated volunteers in this community. Our vendor coordinator, Joe Callison, has dedicated many hours of his time to help make this festival one of the best in Ohio, and we took a walk down memory lane to learn about how he became involved with CBJF.

How did you become involved with the CBJF (and what was your first year)?
2004 was the first year that I volunteered at the festival, with the Gahanna Jaycees. I actually lived in Beavercreek (near Dayton) at the time and was a member of the Jaycees there. I was also a state officer with the Ohio Jaycees and I came up to help out the local chapter. Back then, the Gahanna Jaycees provided manpower for the VIP/Sponsor event in the parking lot of the old post office on Mill St.

What made you want to become involved with CBJF?
In 2005, I had moved to Gahanna and joined the Jaycees here. Once again, we provide manpower for the VIP/Sponsors event.  I became the President of the Gahanna Jaycees in January of 2006 and had a meeting with Mayor Stinchcomb. She put me in contact with her representative on the committee and he told me when the next meeting was being held.  The committee meetings are during the day and I work nights, so I was available, and here we are 12+ years later.

How did you become the Vendor Coordinator?
The first couple of years, I was just sort of a general committee member and helped out wherever it was needed.  When we started having the service organizations manning the beverage booths, I became the coordinator for that. But I still helped with other areas of the festival, as well.  I helped the Admissions Coordinator, and during set-up, I helped the Vendor Coordinator. So, I got to know many of the vendors and how that all worked. I was reluctant at first about taking on that much responsibility.  But, I came to realize just how integral the vendors are to the overall festival experience and how important that is to the Gahanna community.

On average, how many hours per year would you say you volunteer as part of the festival?  
I tried to figure that out at one time.  I should probably try to track it more closely.  Nonetheless, if I had to guess, I’d say it’s easily 120 hours or more per year with all the meetings, planning sessions, and prep work.  Of course, during the weekend of the festival, I probably put in at least 40 hours. As do many of the committee members and volunteers.

Rumor is that you met your wife, through volunteering at the Festival?  
That is actually not true.  In fact, it’s the other way around.  Kristi and I met through the Jaycees, long before I became involved with the festival and she is the reason I moved to Gahanna.  I ended up getting her more involved with the festival committee, by convincing her to be the Volunteer Coordinator. She did that for the CBJF and Holiday Lights until about 5 years ago, after our daughter was born.

What’s your favorite thing about the Festival?  
It’s family.  Not just my actual family, who come out and volunteer every year, but my fellow committee members and the volunteers who come back year after year.  And, of course, the vendors who I’ve gotten to know so well. We all genuinely care about each other and we all care about the success of the event. Honestly, that’s what keeps me coming back each year.  Plus, I love the music, food and the people.

What makes CBJF different than other Central Ohio music festivals?  
The biggest difference is the diversity of our programming.  We have 6 stages with all different types of entertainment. Obviously we have blues and jazz music, but there is also some swing music; some bluegrass; some country; a little ska; maybe some rock; and some R & B.  All of the other music festivals seem to focus on a single genre and do a lot less with bigger budgets. Another thing that I think sets us apart is our location in Olde Gahanna. I think there’s a hometown feel that you just don’t find at too many other festivals.  

One of my favorite CBJF memories:  
One of the first years that the Gahanna Jaycees worked a beer booth.  There was a serious shortage of $1 bills and we had to make change out of the tip jars.  So, the Jaycees decided to have some fun with it. Every time a customer would pay with exact change or gave us a tip, we would give them a cheer.  We were making a lot of noise and having a ton of fun. We actually had people who would walk from the other end of the festival, past other beer booths, just to buy beer from the Jaycees.


Got a #CBJF story? Email it to  and you just might snag some complimentary event wristbands. Take advantage of early bird ticket discounts and buy your tickets online here!


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