Rick Milenthal, founder of Columbus-based digital marketing agency The Shipyard, had always wanted his company to follow the theme “communication can cure.” After The Shipyard’s Chief Strategy Officer Dave Grzelak’s 17-year-old son, David, died by suicide, Milenthal was determined to bring his company’s theme to life.
To bring awareness to mental health and remember David Grzelak, the WonderBus Music Festival was created. A portion of the festival’s proceeds will be donated to a fund in Grzelak’s memory at the Wexner Medical Center’s Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Health.
The inaugural festival took place on the lawn of Chemical Abstracts Service on Saturday and Sunday and featured over 20 bands, including Walk the Moon, Ben Harper & The Innocent Criminals, and the Los Angeles-based indie folk band Magic Giant.
Milenthal was introduced to the idea of bringing a new music festival to the Columbus area when his longtime friend and 1981 alumnus, Cliff Chenfeld, contacted him. Chenfeld owns record label Razor & Tie and Kidz Bop and was asked by management and production company Elevation Group to partner in the creation of the music festival.
Chenfeld suggested using Milenthal’s company to help promote and build the festival in Columbus. Milenthal agreed, but only if the festival would promote mental health.
“We’re in the communication business. We’re in the business of persuasion, and words matter in mental health,” Milenthal said. “We think words can heal, so we thought we could play a part in this whole mental health issue.”
Milenthal said he hopes the festival will take place for many more years and continue to bring light to the subject of mental health.
“In that venue, we are going to change the conversation of mental health,” Milenthal said.
Zambricki Li, a member of Magic Giant, said he and his band members love performing at music festivals, especially those with a cause like WonderBus.
Li said the festival’s mental health theme is important to the band because its guitarist Brian Zaghi’s father struggled with mental illness.
The band’s song “Shake Me Up” has a strong message surrounding mental health and supporting those around you who may be experiencing mental health issues, Li said.
“It’s about showing up for other people and also having people around you who will show up for you,” Li said.
Editor’s note: The creators of WonderBus wish to clarify that the WonderBus Music Festival was not created in response to David Grzelak’s death.