Man rescued from Cuyahoga River during Kent Heritage Festival

The Portage County Water Rescue Team attempts to lead Shawn Bachman back to shore using rope on July 6, 2019. 

Nathan Mehring

A Ravenna man was rescued from the Cuyahoga River in Kent during the 24th annual Heritage Festival on Saturday. 

Around 8:30 p.m., Shawn Bachman, 23, was retrieving a frisbee thrown by a group of children under the W. Main Street Bridge when he was swept away by the heavy current.

Bachman was able to get himself on top of a rock to escape going further downstream and waited there to be rescued by the Portage County Water Rescue Team, said Sergeant Jared Bowen of the Kent Police Department.

The team utilized a series of ropes and small boats to help Bachman get to shore, but setting them up took time. 

“He was probably there for about an hour before they could get to him,” Bowen said.

Word spread of the rescue attempt and hundreds gathered to watch the rescue attempt, Kent resident Kyle McCallum said.

“It was like the whole city was watching his rescue,” McCallum said.

He walked away from the incident with minimal injury. According to Bachman, he, at most, suffered a blown out knee. 

Bachman was volunteering at the Open United Recovery Place booth at the festival, said Jessika Easterling, Executive Director of the organization.

The Open United Recovery Place was one of 140 vendors this year, up from about 120 last year, said Lori Wemhoff, Executive Director of the Kent Area Chamber of Commerce. The chamber organized the festival.

Other changes to the festival were location-based. The main stage was moved to the Hometown Bank Plaza and one of the smaller stages to Franklin Avenue. The Children’s Section was moved to the Main Street Bridge, according to the Chamber’s website. 

The festival, which celebrates Independence Day in Kent, was attended by roughly 23,000 to 25,000 people. This is similar to the number of people that came out last year, Wemhoff said.

Around noon, a thunderstorm blew through downtown Kent. The festival was nearly brought to a halt as vendors scrambled to keep their canopies grounded and keep their signs and paper material dry. Attendees took cover in doorways of businesses and along the sides of buildings.

The live acts playing on the three stages at the time had to cut their sets short. 

“It was hot enough in the sun that I didn’t mind having a shortened set,” said Brad Bolton, one of the lead singers of Peggy and Brad, in a text message. His band’s performance, on the main stage, was shortened by about 15 minutes due to the storm.

Despite this, the festival continued as normal 20 minutes later when the rain stopped. It rained sparsely throughout the rest of the day, but did not stop the festival.

“This place isn’t exactly going to shut down for some rain,” said Donovan Robertson, Assistant Director of marketing for Kent State Athletics. Robertson ran the Kent State Athletics booth at the festival.

The festival continued into the night with a fireworks display at 10 p.m. at Kramer Field. Most of the festival’s crowd gathered in the area around the W. Main Street Bridge and the Hometown Bank Plaza to watch the show.

The display ended around 10:20 p.m. The festival concluded with the second half of a performance by Hard 2 Handle. According to an event schedule on the chamber’s website, the band played from 10:30 p.m. to 11 p.m.

Nathan Mehring covers downtown. Contact him at [email protected]

Corrections were made to the original version of this story to correct the name of the plaza.