When Frederic Bertley spent a weekday afternoon at Columbus' Seventh Son Brewing Co. last week, he hadn't planned to make it a work trip.
The president and CEO of the Columbus’ Center of Science and Industry was simply there for a beer and to pick up a hat to add to his collection.
But while he was talking with the person serving him, he couldn’t help himself: He asked about the brewery’s recent COSI Science Festival events related to the science of beer.
The Seventh Son representative told him their events were “crammed” and recalled “lines down the stairs and out the door.
“He said, ‘We worked with the COSI team members, and they were so good,’ ” Bertley said. “He finished by saying, ‘We were so excited and inspired by how that went, we’re trying to figure out how we can partner with COSI on other things.’ That’s huge for me. Usually, that conversation is the other way around.”
For Bertley, that conversation serves as a microcosm of the success of the center’s first COSI Science Festival.
The festival encapsulated more than 100 events in 17 municipalities May 1-4, culminating in the “Big Science Celebration,” a massive event with hands-on activities held on and around COSI’s downtown campus.We definitely hit our target audience, which was ‘womb to tomb.’ We had some pregnant women there, so that’s our womb audience, and I’m not sure we had any dead folks, but we definitely had some older people. Frederic Bertley, COSI president and CEO
Bertley said attendance at the Big Science Celebration, which wrapped around all sides of the 333 W. Broad St. building, reached “well over” 10,000 on a rainy Saturday alone. The official count for attendance during all four days and all 100-plus events still isn’t complete, he said.
But more encouraging for Bertley was the makeup of that audience, which achieved the wide range of ages he was aiming for.
“It was really a nice audience, diversity-wise; we were very happy to see that,” he said. “We definitely hit our target audience, which was ‘womb to tomb.’ We had some pregnant women there, so that’s our womb audience, and I’m not sure we had any dead folks, but we definitely had some older people.”
Beyond the likes of Seventh Son and other companies involved in the festival, Bertley said, COSI received “huge, huge positive reviews” from community and city leaders as well.
“They loved it,” he said. “They’ve all signed up for next year, for the most part. They can’t wait. And they really saw the value of co-creating something. It wasn’t COSI going into Bexley or New Albany and saying, ‘Here’s what you have to do.’ It was us saying, ‘Here’s what we want to do. We want you to co-create it with us.’ ”
The sponsors of the event, from science- and technology-based organizations to restaurants, were happy with the event as well.
The largest contributor was Columbus-based research-and-development organization Battelle Memorial Institute, which donated $850,000 for the festival.
Aimee Kennedy, Battelle’s senior vice president of philanthropy and education, raved about the fest.
“From our perspective – and really, from all perspectives – the COSI Science Festival was a tremendous success and a terrific start for its multiyear effort to bring science out to the people,” she said. “Frederic and his team mobilized the entire central Ohio community and beyond to provide engaging activities to inspire people of all ages about the potential of science. We are really proud to support him and the mission.”
That opinion isn’t limited to Battelle, said Bertley, who added sponsors were “over the moon.”
“I think they’re scrambling to see who’s going to be the lead sponsor next year,” he said with a laugh.
The festival will return next year with some tweaks and already has started garnering sponsorships.
Although rain put a bit of a damper on the initial festival, Bertley said, he’s excited for it to continue to grow.
“We were absolutely thrilled with the overall inaugural Science Festival,” he said.