Clifton Heights Music Festival returns this weekend

Local music fans will get the chance to see over 80 performances this weekend as the Clifton Heights Music Festival makes its return. For the fourth installment, this Friday and Saturday (April 1-2), the CHMF will feature a variety of MCs, comics, and street performances in addition to more live bands and artists, and has grown to include seven venues: Rohs Street Cafe, Baba Budan’s Coffeehouse and Bar, Uncle Woody’s Pub, Mac’s Pizza Pub, Christy’s Biergarten, Murphy’s Pub and The Mad Frog.

Some of the artists include You, You’re Awesome, Josiah Wolf (of Why?) and Liz Hodson, Walk the Moon, No No Knots and The Harlequins. The festival also includes some regional artists such as Candidate from Lexington, KY and The Ridges from Athens, OH.

The Clifton Heights Music Festival started in October 2009 with just 35 bands. Over 7,500 people have attended the first three festivals, and the CHMF continues to grow.

“Our attendance…is a testament to our belief that neighbors coming out to support what their neighbors create has much worth, and can bring a community together in a positive way,” says founder and director, Rome Ntukogu.

Tickets are just $5 for one day or $10 for the full two-day festival when purchased in advance. Tickets will also be available at each of the venues for $6/$12. You can view the full schedule of all performances and a map of the venues at the CHMF website.

Cincinnati Railroad Club to digitize, preserve 70,000-item library collection

An effort to digitize the 70,000-item collection of the Cincinnati Railroad Club’s library is currently underway. Known as the Cincinnati Rail History Preservation Project, the three-year undertaking will for the first time organize the materials acquired by the library since the club’s founding in 1938.

Ari Buchwald, who is directing the project through Edgecliff Press, is assisting the club in its intent for most non-copyrighted materials to be made available online, including geomapping of the library’s thousands of original photographs. He believes that the digitized library will be of interest to the general public, not just railroad enthusiasts, due to the overlap of many of its materials with other interests. For those doing genealogical research, Buchwald says that digitization will enable quick searches of employee records and that facial recognition software will locate photographs of deceased relatives.

According to club member Roy Hord, the collection grew substantially in size and eclecticism after dumpster-diving efforts recovered items from the 1972 demolition of Union Terminal’s passenger concourse. A second salvage project – the recovery of materials from the old B&O warehouse (now Longworth Hall) – fills an entire room of the library’s off-site storage space.

Much storage space is also dedicated to hundreds of blueprints dating from the construction of Union Terminal and other area rail projects. Digitization of blueprints and other large items is being handled by Robin Imaging, one of the Rail Preservation Project’s in-kind partners.

Buchwald expects that the digitization will permit the club to earn royalties from the licensing of specific items and that it will greatly facilitate the task of publishing new books (the club has published three books to date, including Cincinnati Union Terminal: Design and Construction of an Art Deco Masterpiece). These future returns are not sufficient to finance the digitization, and so Buchwald is leading a $1 million fundraising campaign that will determine the project’s eventual completion, and enable him to hire a full-time staff.

Ari Buchwald photograph by Jake Mecklenborg for UrbanCincy.

Top bartenders rally at Neon’s Unplugged for leadership cause

Molly Wellmann and Leadership Northern Kentucky have partnered with Neon’s Unplugged and Covington’s Homeward Bound Runaway Shelter to host an event March 31 from 6pm to 9pm at the Famous Neon’s Unplugged. This night highlights the efforts and works of Cincinnati’s premier mixologists.

Wellmann, who is opening her own bar this summer, explains, “Bartending used to be such a respected occupation. It’s kind of fallen away from that, but we’re trying to bring that back.”

Wellmann, a Colerain High School graduate, got her start in cocktail mixlogy by convincing the owner of Chalk Food + Wine in Covington, that she could make classic and craft cocktails. “I totally fibbed,” she says. “I had no idea. I guess it was one of those ‘fake it until you make it’ things. I had to go home and Google ‘craft cocktails.’”

She was soon immersed in the world of cocktail mixology, surrounding herself with the history and lure of the once noble profession, which she now extols to many of her patrons. “I love to introduce new drinks for people to want,” she says. “That’s my favorite thing to do. I love to tell them the story behind their cocktail and give them an experience besides just getting a drink. After they’re done with the drink, they can take the story with them.”

The desire to introduce new things for people to want is what led Wellmann to Leadership Northern Kentucky (LNK), a group of 40 emerging regional leaders deeply immersed in a fundraising project to furnish the Homeward Bound Runaway Shelter in Covington. The leadership group, a program of the Northern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce, approached Wellmann about helping out with a fundraising event. She ran with it, rallying some of the region’s top bartenders and mixologists to the cause.

Wellmann’s Molly’s Rose-Covered Pectorals is highlighted, as are original creations by Joshua Laichas of Milton’s Prospect Hill Tavern; Chris Blagg of The Famous Neon’s Unplugged; Bret Schulte of Down Under Tavern; Stuart MacKenzie of Mayday; Rom Wells of Rookwood Bar and Restaurant; Adrian Bakie of The Comet; K.K. Keller of The Lackman Bar; Kim Denzler of Mainstay Rock Bar; Sam Ginocchio of the soon-to-open A Tavola; and Julie Paul of Maribelle’s Tavern.

A book will be available at a March 31 public kick-off party at Neon’s (208 E. 12th Street). The cost will be $5, and thanks to the generosity of B+P+T Communication Solutions, xpedx, Lucky Rabbit Studio and photographer Tiffani Fisher, 100 percent of the proceeds will benefit Homeward Bound.

Additionally, from 6pm to 9pm on March 31, Neon’s will donate $2 for each of the book’s classic cocktails sold. And for the entire month of April, each of the businesses highlighted in the book will donate $2 for each of the featured cocktails it sells.

“What makes this project special is that, at its core, it’s about building community and making connections,” said Jody Robinson, a member of Leadership Northern Kentucky and chair of the March 31 event. “People are doing inspiring things everywhere. We only have to be willing to look, share and appreciate. Doing the same old thing – where’s the leadership in that?”

Molly Wellmann photograph by Thadd Fiala for UrbanCincy.

Taco Azul to finally hit Cincinnati’s streets in time for Reds Opening Day

A new California-style food truck will bring authentic Mexican fare to Cincinnati’s streets just in time for Reds Opening Day this Thursday. The food truck, long anticipated by Cincinnati’s street food connoisseurs, will feature a special al pastor available on tacos, burritos, tortas and gringas – a style of quesadilla from northern Mexico.

Taco Azul owner and operator, Gary Sims, says that he has been very excited to begin operations in his hometown after living in Los Angeles for years.

“When I moved back to Cincinnati I was surprised at how much had changed, especially in our urban core. Younger people were staying in the city and couples were moving back into downtown and Over-the-Rhine,” Sims told UrbanCincy in an exclusive interview. “There was also a culinary rejuvenation here. I could actually find good sushi in Cincinnati, and I just felt that with all of this, the timing was perfect for a Cincinnati taco truck.”

Since Sims has been back in Cincinnati he says that he has also been encouraged by the work of City Councilwoman Laure Quinlivan who led the effort to create food truck parking locations throughout the Central Business District. But he does hope that more can be done to further accommodate the burgeoning food truck industry.

“Maybe in the future we could have some temporary spots for food trucks during special events like ball games, concerts or festivals. But as I said, I cannot imagine a more welcoming city council than ours here in Cincinnati.”

The desire for special event parking locations has been echoed by other food truck operators including Café de Wheels. Both food truck operators have recently expressed interest in being more closely located to Great American Ball Park for Reds Opening Day, and other special events taking place at The Banks.

“I grew up in Cincinnati, and even as a kid I can remember Opening Day being the biggest day of the year for this city,” Sims explained. “The Reds have such a great history here in Cincinnati. It is our unofficial start to spring.”

After Reds Opening Day, Sims says that customers will be able to find Taco Azul for late night food between 11pm and 2:30am in Over-the-Rhine, Northside, Mt. Adams or Downtown. He says that their lunch schedule will vary, but encourages customers to follow Taco Azul’s Twitter and Facebook accounts for live updates.

To ensure no confusion, Sims notes that Taco Azul stands out from the other local food trucks (stay up-to-date on all of Cincinnati’s food trucks through UrbanCincy’s comprehensive Twitter stream) because it is the only place to find “authentic Mexican street food,” and that food is self-contained and cooked-to-order on the truck. As the truck matures he experts to also offer specials, breakfast and try other food fusions with Latino fare.

“I love Café de Wheels and the other trucks here in Cincinnati. I think we will compliment each other and bring this city variety, and a new street cuisine that is hard to find outside of a few major cities.”

Taco Azul photograph by Thadd Fiala for UrbanCincy.

Get sneak peek of nearly completed first phase of The Banks tomorrow

As the Cincinnati Enquirer so often likes to remind us, The Banks has been decades in the making, and after much political infighting, the project is finally coming to fruition. The massive mixed-use riverfront development project saw its first business open on St. Patrick’s Day and will soon start welcoming hundreds of new residents.

Developers have decided to invite those interested along for a tour of the $90 million first phase (map) that is nearing completion on Wednesday, March 30. The event is free, but reservations are required in order to participate in one of the two tours.

Tours will meet in from the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center and will begin at 4:15pm and 4:30pm. Following the tours, there will be happy hour drink specials and light appetizers at the Holy Grail Tavern & Grille. Those who wish to attend one of the tours are asked to contact Mary Kathryn Kennon at (please indicate preferred tour time in RSVP email).

For fun, you can also RSVP to the event’s TwtVite page brought to you by UrbanCincy and The Banks Master Development Team.

The Banks phase one photograph by Thadd Fiala for UrbanCincy.