Costume-clad revelers haunt Kent’s Halloween

Kent State senior anthropology major Kayla Metzger walks through downtown Kent in her scarecrow costume during Kent Halloween on Saturday, Oct. 29, 2016.

Alex Delaney-Gesing

Standing at the corner of East Main and Water Streets Saturday night, Kent resident Steph Smith and her grandkids took in the hordes of costumed individuals spilling out onto the streets. 

“It gets better every year,” said Smith, a 44-year resident of the town.”This is just one of those times where everybody gets along and dresses up. I love it.” 

After the sun set on an unseasonably warm October Saturday, thousands filled downtown Kent to celebrate “Kent Halloween.”

People of all ages crowded the sidewalks and spilled onto the streets. Santa Claus in a red onesie strode down Water Street, passing half a dozen individuals wearing Guy Fawkes masks. A masked clown leaned out a window above Old City Bank, greeting passersby who glanced up toward him. 

Smith, 66, joked she would stay out as long as her knees held up. “There’s so much to see out here,” she said.

Kent City Police cruised down East Main, Erie and Water Streets, keeping an eye out for any out-of-the ordinary behavior during one of the city’s busiest nights of the year.

Kent Fire Department responded to a fire alarm triggered on the second floor of a store on East Main Street shortly after 9:30 p.m. The cause was discovered to be a false alarm — a smoke machine set it off.

Police reported they made 38 arrests throughout the night, with detailed reports said to be filed online in the coming week.

The number of arrests has decreased since last year’s celebration, when police arrested 45 people — mainly for underage alcohol consumption and criminal trespassing.

Tina and Vince Sferra parked on one of the benches on the corner of Erie and South Water Street, taking in the costumed sights throughout the evening. Vince, 49, a lifelong Kent resident, said he’s been to nearly all the town’s Saturday night Halloweens.

“All these park benches around here are full of the older generation because we all just sit and observe: dinner and the shows, so to speak,” Tina said.

Vince said Kent’s Halloween isn’t what it used to be.

“Times have changed,” he said. “It’s gotten a lot crazier. Kids here can get pretty wild and extreme, but I guess were were like that once.”

The Zephyr Pub projected Game 4 of the World Series on the outdoor patio during the celebration. Cleveland Indians fans clad in Chief Wahoo hats and logoed jackets and T-shirts  watched from inside the patio and on the nearby sidewalks as the team beat the Chicago Cubs, 7-2 — its third win in the series. 

An old red pickup truck parked outside the patio throughout the whole game. Its owners sat in lawn chairs set up in the truck’s bed and on the nearby curb. As college students filed past on their way to their next bar hop, the group snacked on popcorn and cheered on the Indians from their street-side seats. 

Cleveland State University students Ella Jones and Madi Colosimo leaned against the storefront window of Franklin’s Deli on South Water Street, observing the throng of people lined up for entrance to Water Street Tavern.

Their white dresses were stained with blood, inspired by the 2013 movie “The Purge.” Black eyeliner outlined their eyes and dark lipstick covered their mouths. 

“We heard it was going to be pretty crazy here, so we figured why not check it out,” said Jones, a nursing major.

Next to them, near the entrance to Water Street Tavern, members of H20 Church cooked and served up free, fresh and piping hot pancakes. One bar hopper walking by asked the group “You going to give a religious spiel?”

“We don’t give a religious spiel unless you ask for one,” an H20 member replied, giving the individual a plate of pancakes.

Lexis Casonava, a resident of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, said she comes to Kent for Halloween every year. A white, furry bunny mask covered her face.

“Costumes are a must — my friends make sure of that,” she said.

Casonava said that compared to Philadelphia, Kent’s festivities are more family-friendly and safer for everyone.

“You can’t walk around like this on the streets of Philly, that’s for sure,” she said.

The surface streets filled with more costumes as the night wore on. A man wearing a red “Make America Great Again” hat carried a homemade sign reading “Make Halloween Great Again.”

Pope Francis in his white garb and cap wheeled down Water Street in a wheelchair, pushed by a habit-wearing nun. A herd of gray elephants paraded up and down the streets, following single file behind each other. 

Kent residents John and Jodie Kovalen made the gray costumes as part of an annual tradition with their friends. The cloth material was held up by wooden sticks, with gigantic elephant ears sticking out above the crowd. 

Last year, the group dressed as minions from the “Minions” movie. The year prior they roamed the streets as extraterrestrials — aliens. 

“We all just like doing it for the heck of it,” said Al Haight, a Hudson resident and member of the elephant herd. “There’s usually between eight and 10 of us who participate each year, and it’s always entertaining for us and everyone else.”

When midnight struck, the town activity showed no signs of dispersing. Long lines to get into bars grew, wrapping around street corners; people waiting to get into Water Street Tavern were backed up to the line formed for The Zephyr Pub. 

A DJ blasted electronic dance music from the gazebo near the Main Street Bridge, on the corner of Franklin Avenue. Vampires and Joker danced in front of the speakers, their white-painted faces and fangs illuminated by the street lamp. 

On the edge of downtown just before the Main Street Bridge, a white trailer sat parked on the curb throughout the night. 

Stacey Lasher and Carl Bauer, owners of the Franklin Avenue-located eatery GRAZERS, offered homemade mac and cheese, vegan chili, chili dogs, popcorn and cold — non-alcoholic — drinks for the downtown crowds. 

“People have been pretty thankful to have the water and popcorn we’ve got,” Lasher said. “It beats having to go into the bars and wait.”

Lasher said they set up shop near the downtown activity because they wanted to be a part of the Saturday night activity.

“We’re not going anywhere,” she said. “We’ll be out here until we run out of food.”

Alex Delaney-Gesing is a senior reporter, contact her at [email protected]