Kent fest brings the city to life

Jessica Renner

Instead of partaking in Saturday’s Kent Heritage Festival activities, a group of girls sits upon the rocks lining the Cuyahoga River in Franklin Mills Riveredge Park downtown. Steven Mantilla | Summer Kent Stater

Credit: DKS Editors

PLAY the video from the Kent Heritage Festival.

Vendors, musical acts and citizens swarmed downtown Kent Saturday. The annual Kent Heritage Festival was crowded on the vibrant summer day.

Kicking off with a benefit race for the United Way at 7:30 a.m. and ending at midnight with live music, the festival, put on by the Kent Chamber of Commerce, had a host of events to offer.

Children were hoisted onto the shoulders of family members and handed balloons to sail into the sunny sky. Some little girls were transformed into princesses with sparkly crowns and colorful garland wands.

Smoke from huge grills rose to spread the scent of gyros, a large pink elephant smiled down from the top of a cart selling elephant ear funnel cakes and Boy Scouts handed out kettle corn samples.

Friends gathered in circles to reunite and chat. For a lot of citizens, seeing people is the highlight of the festival. Sophomore Spanish major Katie Collier, who has attended the festival three times, said this is her favorite part about the day.

“I just like meeting up with friends and possibly seeing family,” Collier said.

Kent does not usually seem to have a busy downtown, but the festival draws a huge crowd every year. According to Kent Area Chamber of Commerce Web site, about 25,000 people attend each year.

Antoine Beauchemin, conflict management graduate student, attended the event for the first time and noticed how it created a high energy not usually seen in Kent.

“Everyone is really excited,” Beauchemin said. “It makes the people of Kent come out of their homes.”

Jewelry and art vendors were distributed throughout the festival, along with three stages for musical acts and a car show.

One excited young girl, decked out in a bright pink dress, performed “Somewhere over the Rainbow” and received roaring applause although she ended up waving to her family instead of finishing the second verse.

There were also many informational booths about organizations in the area. While walking through the streets, citizens were bombarded with clipboards being held by volunteers registering people to vote.

Cailey Ambrose, senior political science major, grew up in Kent and has attended the Heritage Festival several times. She said it is an event that everyone looks forward to.

“Kent really comes alive during the Kent Fest,” Ambrose said.

Along with making the city boom with activity, Ambrose said the festival helps draw people together.

“It makes you feel close to the community,” Ambrose said.

The community came together for the end of the festival. After a hot day, the vendors began packing up, the music died down a bit and citizens gathered on and near the Main Street bridge. It was 9:45 p.m. and the fireworks were about to begin.

Children were wearing flashy glow sticks, students packed into the local bars’ patios and everyone stared out over the Cuyahoga River waiting for the magic to begin.

After the display was over, a band played until midnight. People infiltrated the streets one last time before meandering home, and Kent began to clean up after a day-long party.

Contact social services reporter Jessica Renner at [email protected].