Dear Cleveland and Ohio Homecoming,

Congratulations on your amazing New Year’s Eve festivities. It has truly been a long time coming.

About three months ago, a friend of mine mentioned that Cleveland was trying to ring in the New Year with a free show by none other than Chicago electronic dance royalty Krewella.

I looked at my friend and said, “Fat chance.”

Well, I was wrong, and I couldn’t be more ecstatic. The free, city-sponsored show did happen, and it was a great success.

I am a huge music fan, not only electronic but anything with a catchy bass line, melodic highs, some groovy lows and maybe a cowbell or two. For the 24 years that I’ve roamed the earth (I was born and raised in Canton, Ohio), I was on a neverending search for something more from my hometown. Something about Northeast Ohio just felt empty. Maybe it was the lack of a winning sports team, maybe it was the rising crime rates or just a case of disliking where I lived. But after this past New Year’s Eve celebration, I think I found what I was seeking.

From the outside looking in, Cleveland can be daunting. As a kid I always heard stories about Cleveland–some were good, some were bad. But unfortunately, once you become old enough to start exploring the world around you for yourself, you tend to only remember the bad ones. From the inside looking out, Cleveland is an absolutely amazing city. Whether you are in Ohio City or Old Brooklyn, I can almost guarantee that you will find something that is truly unique to Cleveland’s culture. When I see Cleveland, I see a city built on blood and sweat, one whose citizens are just as strong as the brick-laden roads from 1796; a city that refuses to give up, be it economic downfall or another botched season by the Browns. It is a city whose deeply imbedded history in music, sports and politics is as rich as the cuisine that adorns its neighborhoods.

I will admit that up until recently I wanted nothing to do with Ohio. I saw it as a dying state covered in a shroud of rust. I became jaded from a young age by the lights of a bigger city, the non-stop mentality and the fact that there was always something around the corner to participate in. Since I was a child I have spent most of my summers in Montreal, Canada. For those of you who are not familiar with Montreal, I like to think of it as the closest one could get to a vacation in Europe without actually traveling overseas. Throughout my summers in Montreal I became accustomed to the fact that there was always some type of free festival happening or a major label concert going on downtown. I enjoyed the camaraderie that events like this gave the inhabitants of the city, the unison in everyone’s happiness. That same happiness and the standard of feeling good about one’s city is what I felt had been missing in Cleveland and northeast Ohio in general.

Now let’s get back to Cleveland’s rocking New Year’s Eve.

It was a chilly 23 degrees, Public Square was covered in bright lights, and the sounds of Kaskade’s Atomic being played by Evan Evolution was starting to become clear over the loudspeakers. The snow was falling a bit heavier than before, each individual snowflake acting as a kaleidoscope refracting the light from the stage in a thousand different directions. Within the crowd it was nothing but thousands of smiles wrapped in fur hoods, glow gloves bobbing up and down, men and women both old and young dancing and moving to the music that filled the air. Krewella came on stage around a quarter ‘till eleven, and the whole crowd became even rowdier. There wasn’t anyone I could see that wasn’t jumping up and down or spinning around in circles. No one cared that it was absolutely freezing or that they would probably wake up the next morning with a sore throat and a runny nose (which is exactly how I woke up). We were all there for one reason, and that was to show love to the area that we are from.

I loved seeing Ohioans happy; it made me feel great about where I live. It showed me that there are a ton of people out there who care about Cleveland; that it isn’t full of naysayers and cynics, and sports teams that get you so excited during the off season only to crush your hopes and dreams by the third regular season game. That night to me was truly special, not only did I get to bring in the New Year with some of my closest friends, but I got to do it in a truly magical environment that rivaled some of my favorite memories from around the world. I fell in love with a city that night, a city that even in my wildest dreams, I never saw myself being a part of it.

I hope that this isn’t a one-time event, and I hope that Cleveland will embrace the tradition that they started this past New Year’s Eve. Cleveland needs something that it can be happy about and proud of on a national level — not only for just New Year’s Eve, but for events throughout the year. Our foot is in the doorway to potentially one of the best things to happen to the city since the return of the Browns. I hope this opens the door to new events — maybe a weekend long festival in public square, or maybe even the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame concerts from now on. What ever the city decides, after January first, I will forever support you in your endeavours.

Gianmarco Rinaldi
Student, University of Akron