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Jewel, Kroger host festival to promote community wellness

CINCINNATI — Singer-songwriter Jewel has been coming to Cincinnati as a performer since she was 19 years old. While she still visits to perform on stage from time to time, the Grammy-nominee spends a lot of her time in the Queen City supporting wellness in others.

Jewel will be in downtown this week to support The Wellness Experience, an annual health and wellness festival. This year’s event takes place Friday and Saturday, from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., at The Banks.

A group workout during The Wellness Experience (Inclusion Companies)

The festival features more than 100 experiences focused on four core pillars: health, activity, nutrition and inspiration. 

“It has everything from working out from famous fitness trainers to Ninja Warrior courses for kids, and lots of free swag, which seems to be everyone’s favorite thing,” Jewel joked. “The beauty bar seems to be one of the most popular things every year,

She added that she plans to take part in a “why sleep matters” seminar and several of the cooking demos, but said her favorite part will be all the live music.

There will be live local music on both Friday and Saturday, with headlining acts taking the stage around 4 p.m.

Hip-hop singer Quinn XCII will perform Friday with hometown favorite Blessid Union of Souls. On Saturday, platinum recording artist RaeLynn will headline the showcase. Willie Jones will also perform.

The event began in 2018 as The Wellness Your Way Festival. It was a collaboration between Jewel, Inclusion Companies and Cincinnati-based The Kroger Co. 

Jewel said the Queen City was a logical host site given Kroger’s location. But the Homer, Alaska native said she’s fond of Cincinnati: “The city is very beautiful and the people are always nice. My son really likes it here. I’m always glad to come back.”

Most music lovers know Jewel for her pop hits in the 1990s like “You Were Meant for Me” and “Who Will Save Your Soul,” but she’s also a well-known mental health advocate. Her digital platform, jewelneverbroken.com, helps people “gain tone in all areas of their lives.”

This weekend, Jewel will lead a workshop on how to work through anxiety and not let it rule your life.

The Wellness Experience includes live music (Inclusion Companies)

“We recognize that many are combating the silent symptoms of COVID-19 — anxiety, depression, and isolation – in addition to their physical health,” she said. “We know that mental wellness is critical right now.”

The event is free, which is key to Jewel. She grew up homeless as a young adult and said she knows the challenge of trying to manage mental health and stay well when money is tight.

Jewel said the goal is to “democratize” the availability of health and wellness and making good products. She wants them to be available to everyone. available to everyone is “really important”

“Misery, sadly, is an equal opportunity thing — whether you’re rich or poor, whatever your nationality or color,” Jewel said. “If you weren’t raised with happiness in your home, if you happen to be struggling with anxiety, you’re going to need an education to help relearn habits. For me, this Wellness Experience is about giving that access to everyone.”

In only its second year, the festival attracted more than 40,000 attendees over the course of the weekend.

Due to COVID-19, organizers went to a digital-only platform last year. It was so successful, Jewel said, that they now plan to host similar virtual festivals once a quarter. They are continuing to look for ways to provide year-round access to healthy living resources.

They also rebranded as “The Wellness Experience by Kroger.”

“At Kroger, our purpose is to feed the human spirit and we are excited to offer an abundance of health and wellness resources for attendees who are seeking to live a healthier lifestyle,” said Jenifer Moore, corporate affairs manager for Kroger.

Cooking demos and other lifestyle displays aim to help people live well (Inclusion Companies)

Kroger Health’s president, Colleen Lindholz, will co-host a vegan cooking showcase this weekend.

Because discussions about health and wellness can sometimes be a little dry, organizers added interactive elements to make it more engaging. That includes features like sample Spartan and CrossFit workouts, cooking displays and style tips. They’re also offering free haircuts and beard trims.

Other attractions include healthy food samples and a cooking stage showcasing plant-based eating options. 

Festival speakers will include actress and vegan foodie Tabitha Brown; Joanne Molinaro, known as “The Korean Vegan;” comedian Sheryl Underwood; “Dancing with the Stars” standout Cheryl Burke; Kroger Racing driver Ricky Stenhouse Jr.; NBA All-Star Brad Dougherty; and Cincinnati’s own Marty and Amanda Brennaman.

For the kids, they’ve created a special zone that includes things like a Paw Patrol-themed play area.

Kroger Health will provide COVID-19 vaccines all weekend. Mercy Health will provide mammography screenings, too.

Patron-facing staff will wear masks if social distancing cannot be maintained. Free masks will be available to all attendees. ​​