Customers line up outside the Columbus Recreation and Parks Department food truck, nicknamed “The Strawberry.” Credit: Courtesy of Randall L. Schieber

The newest downtown festival is giving people a reason to embrace the winter season.

Presented by the Columbus Recreation and Parks Department and hosted at the Scioto Mile Saturday, the first WinterFest features live music, nine food trucks and locally crafted seasonal beer.

Nancy Colvin, communications and marketing specialist for CRPD, sad the primary focus of the festival is to give back to the community through the departments’ Empty Bowls initiative, which supports the Mid-Ohio Food Bank.

Colvin, an Ohio State alumna, helped develop WinterFest with a creative team, and said the festival hopes to not only raise money but bring people together.

“The music is great, all of it is great, but really when it gets down to the core of it, it’s about supporting our community and giving back,” Colvin said. “We want everyone to have a wonderful time, but we want them to know that it’s going towards a good cause and this is supporting our community.”

Admission is free, but a portion of the food truck and beer sales will go toward the Empty Bowls cause. The recreation department’s food truck also will contribute to the fundraiser. Titled “The Strawberry” for its fruit-like design, the truck will offer soup from Milestone 229, a local restaurant, out of purchasable handmade bowls created by volunteers.

Wendy Frantz, who has coordinated Empty Bowls for almost nine years, said this CRPD initiative is celebrating its 20th year of donating funds to the Mid-Ohio Food Bank. Since 1997, the effort has generated more than $236,000 for the food pantry. Frantz said WinterFest will be another opportunity to teach Columbus what the fundraising team is all about.

Frantz added that the initiative creates insight for ceramic bowl-makers, especially kids.

“It also teaches the children who make the bowls by saying to them, ‘When you make this bowl, it’s going to help another child in need,’” she said.

Apart from the food and drink, the festival also will feature live music by local artist Angela Perley & The Howlin’ Moons, and Doc Robinson. Columbus-native RJD2, a nationally recognized musician, will make a homecoming appearance as the headliner.

“Being able to have local acts is always fantastic, and a point of pride for us to say that, yet again, this is our city, and these are the artists that live and work here,” Colvin said. “Really, all of this is local talent because RJD2 … he is a hometown boy too, and we’re happy to have him back.”

WinterFest begins at 11 a.m. and runs until 4 p.m. Saturday at Bicentennial Park.