Storms crash Blastoff

Stormy skies and an eventual rain shower cut short Kent State’s annual back-to-school “Blastoff” event, the finale of this year’s Welcome Weekend.

Undergraduate Student Government president Sam Graska said university police canceled the event because of safety concerns.

Lightning strikes were close enough to Risman Plaza — where USG and the Center for Student Involvement set up the event — that the metal stage and tents worried the event organizers.

“We asked someone if it was still going to happen, and she said (Blastoff) will happen rain or shine,” said Amber Kustaborder, a freshman architecture major. “Then we turned around and people were packing up to leave.”

Blastoff won’t be rescheduled this year; instead, CSI took to Twitter to encourage students to attend Black Squirrel Festival on Sept. 9.

“A lot of work goes into the event from a variety of department; Center for Student Involvement, Student Success Programs and Undergraduate Student Government,” said Rebecca Kappler, assistant director for CSI. “All of the student groups spend a great amount of time getting ready for the event and setting up their tables.”

Kapler said CSI’s biggest concern is always for the safety of all participants, with the thunder and lightening being the reason behind why they felt it best to cancel the event.

CSI also tweeted that some student organizations set up impromptu tables in the Student Center after Blastoff was officially canceled, but by then, many students already cleared the area.

“This is the first year since I have been here that we have had to cancel the event,” Kapler said.

Five freshmen, including chemistry major Luke Slotterback, huddled into Stopper Hall’s lounge to review a list of student organizations online.

Slotterback said he was disappointed Blastoff was canceled, and although he’s already identified some of the groups he’d like to join, the online alternative proved dissatisfying.

“It’s better to talk to someone face-to-face than to fill out a form,” Slotterback said.

Four bands were scheduled to play during Blastoff, including a hip-hop duo called Partners in Irony. Justin Martin, a Kent State graduate and half of Partners in Irony, said they were disappointed from the cancellation.

“As you could guess, it was a bummer,” Martin said. “We were excited to do the show and we graduated in May.”

Martin said they were working to get back into the swing of things since graduating, as it’s been a while since they’ve done their last show.

The duo is at work, however — in spite of the cancellation — on future projects, and are to put out a set of new music releases in the next month. They are hoping to do more shows as well, which will be posted on their social media.

Blastoff capped a busy Welcome Weekend, with events spanning from freshmen move-in Thursday to what was initially going to be the finale Sunday night.

“I feel like it’s a tradition,” said Grace Vonder Brink, a freshman spanish translation major, “and we will not get to be a part of that tradition.”

Cliff Glowacki, director of programing for USG, said that the organization is actively looking for other opportunities to provide students with an alternative concert.

“Right now we’re looking forward to our next concert on (Sept. 29) with Kesha and PartyNextDoor.”

McKenzie Jean-Phillippe contributed reporting to this story.