Kent State Stark hosts two festival events

Rebecca Odell

Kent State Stark will host the Balloon Classic Invitational and the Jackson-Belden Food Fest and Fireworks Friday and Saturday.

The kick-off events to the Pro Football Hall of Fame Enshrinement Festival attract about 60,000 people to the campus each year, said Cynthia Williams, Kent State Stark public relations coordinator.

The Balloon Classic Invitational began in 1984 and merged with the Jackson-Belden Food Fest and Fireworks in 1995, according to the Pro Football Hall of Fame Web site. Hot air balloon pilots from around the nation come to Northeast Ohio to compete in team racing and target drops for a cash prize.

Williams said more than 70 pilots signed up to participate in last year’s event, but bad weather conditions kept the balloons from flying.

The Balloon Glow, an event where the balloons inflate and light up to choreographed music, will take place Friday night after sunset.

The Jackson-Belden Food Fest and Fireworks takes place on the Kent State Stark track and attracts a wide variety of food vendors and bands, Williams said.

Williams said the events are free, but some companies host hospitality tents that either charge or invite guests to enjoy the weekend under the shade of the tent. The campus sponsors “The Best Seat in the House” tent, complete with dinner, drinks, privacy and a good view of the balloon liftoff.

Jenny Huth, Kent State Stark special events coordinator, said Kent State alumni can purchase tickets for the tent and get reduced fees if they purchase an alumni membership. The tent is a great way to say thank you to the campus, she said.

The Pro Football Hall of Fame Enshrinement Festival and its preceding events give Stark County national attention, Huth said, adding the events hosted by the campus are a great way to expose people from around the nation to the well-maintained grounds at Kent State Stark.

“It’s a really family-friendly event,” she said.

Balloon Classic Invitational and Jackson-Belden Food Fest and Fireworks

Location: Kent State University Stark Campus

6000 Frank Road N.W.

North Canton, Ohio 44720

&bull The festival hours are 4-11:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Fireworks are scheduled for 10 p.m. Saturday.

n Parking is available off Frank Road. Parking is $5 per vehicle after 3 p.m.

&bull The full schedule of events for the Pro Football Hall of Fame Enshrinement Festival can be found at

Contact regional campuses reporter Rebecca Odell at [email protected].