Kent Stage a staple in Kent community

Kate Kelly

The Kent Stage is one of the biggest destinations and historical attractions Kent has to offer. The music venue hosts events nearly every week that bring people from Kent and surrounding cities.

Tom Simpson, the owner of the stage, and his wife Richele Charlton, bought the historical venue in 2002. The two were members of the Western Reserve Folk Arts Association, a non-profit group looking for venues to host touring music acts in northeast Ohio.

“The place closed one day, and we started working the next [day] to buy it,” Simpson said. “[WRFFA] did folk events, and the community development director wanted more activities in downtown. We turned it into a concert venue and started with folk music.”

Arnold Guthrie, Punch Brothers, The Wailers and Mushroomhead are some of the big names that have performed at the stage.

“There have been so many people that have played here,” Simpson said. “I would have to say one of my favorites that came here was Richie Stephens from Woodstock, but still it’s really hard to say which my favorite is.”

Although the building is primarily for live music, the Kent Stage is home to events such as the Kent State Folk Festival, Children’s Musical Theater of Kent, Kent Blues Fest and Standing Rock Film Festival.

The building has been a part of Kent since 1927, and in the years before it became “The Kent Stage,” it was a movie theater.

“In the ‘20s, they built buildings to last a long time,” Simpson said. “So it is in pretty good shape, but on a regular basis, we have to do upgrades on the roof because we have six apartments above us.”

Simpson said volunteers help with the regular, minor repairs

Simpson and Charlton, Kent State alumni themselves, try to keep a Kent tradition going at the stage. They have many student volunteers and other Kent State alumni, who help them with business concerns, social media, ticketing, security, and clean up after concerts.

Brad Powell, 35, is one of the alumni members who works for the Kent Stage. After he sold his bar, Professor’s Pub, in downtown Kent four years ago, he started to help Simpson. He handles things from the marketing and advertising campaigns all the way to working with the management to improve things.

“The place is great,” Powell said. “They draw over 100,000 people a year from around Kent and other states. The more people they draw in, the more businesses restaurants and bars get from people that wouldn’t come to Kent if the Kent Stage wasn’t there.”

The stage doesn’t plan on moving anytime soon. It has plenty of sold out shows including Glass Harp, which was Saturday, March 2 and the upcoming Todd Rundgren show May 14.

“These are sold out shows here coming up,” Simpson said. “They are legends.”

And the way the Kent Stage has been running, these probably aren’t the last legends to play in the heart of downtown.

Kate Kelly is the off-campus entertainment reporter for the Daily Kent Stater. Contact Kate Kelly at [email protected].