Although the fifth annual SoupFest revolves around delicious soups and live music, the story behind the festival is one of friendship, loss and legacy.
SoupFest, which takes place Saturday from 1 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. in the Valley Dale Ballroom, will feature more than 40 homemade soups for attendees to sample and vote on, live music and raffles, according to a SoupFest press release. Champions in four soup categories — people’s choice, unique, vegetarian and “thup,” or thick soup — will be crowned at the event.
The event will also serve as a tribute to one of the event’s three co-founders, Nick Battaglia, who died of an accidental overdose in November 2019, said Evan Harris, executive producer and co-founder of the event. .
“Nick has been promoting SoupFest a lot to his family,” Harris said. “He was incredibly proud of it, and he was the face of it, and he still is.”
The event began in 2018 after Harris tweeted that he had a dream in which he ate soup. It quickly became a running joke between him and his two friends, Battaglia and Jake Sekas, also co-founder of the event.
“They pulled me aside one day and said they were going to have a soup festival for me,” Harris said. “The first was in their house and we expected 10 to 15 people to show up. In the end, we couldn’t accommodate everyone in the house. We knew we wanted to make it an annual contract.
The second annual SoupFest, which Harris said was held the following year in 2019, grew faster than all three expected. After receiving 90-100 RSVPs, he said they quickly realized a bigger location would be needed.
“We rushed it and ended up moving it to the extra room in an apartment complex for events,” Harris said. “It was so late and disorganized that we didn’t bring any groups, but it was free fun.”
When the second SoupFest ended, the trio knew they had something special and wanted to make it something positive, Harris said. Battaglia, Sekas and Harris then teamed up with Neighborhood Services Inc.a local food pantry on the east side of Columbus, and donated a significant portion of event proceeds to the organization.
When it came time to host the third annual SoupFest, Harris said tickets were once again selling out faster than they could have expected.
“It was bliss. We sat down and looked at each other like, ‘Is this really happening?’ “Said Harris. “Unfortunately, that would be the last time Jake and I saw Nick.”
After Battaglia’s passing, Sekas and Harris said they decided to continue the event as a memorial to Battaglia focusing on issues close to his heart, such as food shortages and social inequality. Harris said the 2020 SoupFest was held at Ace of Cups in Clintonville, with musical performances from friends and acquaintances.
“It was a pretty powerful experience for those who were grieving and those who knew how much it meant to Nick,” Harris said. “Those who may not have been affiliated with him before, who showed up for the music and the soup, learned more about Nick’s life and the things he was proud of.”
After Battaglia’s death, his friend Wes Kasik joined the SoupFest team to provide marketing training that would further establish the event, Harris said.
Due to the pandemic, the fourth SoupFest was held via Instagram Live in 2021. According to the website, over $10,000 was donated to the Nick “Miklos” Battaglia Fund through the Columbus Foundation following the virtual event. Since then, the SoupFest team has remained philanthropically involved through the same fund, which allows interested people to make a donation in Battaglia’s memory.
“We decided that was the best way to handle the charity side of things,” Sekas mentioned. “That way, everything we support is in Nick’s name, in his memory.”
Courtesy of the Battaglia family, this year’s SoupFest will partner with the Franklin County Alcohol, Drugs and Mental Health Commission to support a cause that aims to help save lives, Harris said.
“With ADAMH, it’s the most logical step we can take at this point,” Harris said. “If it’s something as simple as having a booth at a silly little soup and music festival providing resources to others to potentially save another life, it’s worth it.”
SoupFest will also be a partner of Middle Ohio Food Collectivean umbrella organization supporting more than 600 local food and household partners and distributors, according to a SoupFest press release.
“It’s the most important thing I’ve done with my life,” Harris said. “I could bet my paycheck that Wes and Jake and everyone involved with SoupFest would say the same thing.”
SoupFest will take place at the Valley Dale Ballroom, located at 1590 Sunbury Rd. General admission will be for those 18 or older and tickets start at $50, depending on the Eventbrite page.