Flyin’ high with the Heritage Fest

Crowds gather to celebrate Kent

Tommy Clowers barely hangs onto his bike, high above the crowd that gathered to watch the motocross exhibition. DAVID RANUCCI | SUMMER KENT STATER

Credit: DKS Editors

At least 20,000 people turned out to celebrate the 2007 Kent Heritage festival Saturday. Sponsored by the Kent Area Chamber of Commerce, the City of Kent and local businesses, the festival brought together magic, music, food and fireworks.

11:15 a.m. – Erie Street Stage

Local band Serious Tool got the day started with searing guitar solos and rough vocals. The cover band, formed through Woodsy’s Music, played hits such as the Beatles’ “Eight Days a Week,” while the audience sang along.

Dressed in jeans and a black T-shirt and armed with a black bass guitar, lead singer Rick Joyner introduced his band.

“We go by the name of Serious Tool, for serious rock,” he said.

11:45 a.m. – South Water Street picnic tables

Grabbing a meal of hot dogs and lemonade, John and Kathy Lilley, both 1950 graduates of Kent State, took a breather at one of the many picnic tables situated on the street.

John Lilley talked about his”forty or fifty years” flying planes, both in the military and privately. The Lilleys, who’ve been married for 51 years, remember the first festival in 1970. Since then, they’ve seen it expand with more vendors and cars.

12:30 p.m. – North Water Street

The Kent Civil War Society represented themselves at a street booth, erecting several Civil War-era tents, filled with rifles, uniforms and other relics from that time.

Sitting near the tents were society members in both Union and Confederate uniforms. Walt Lininger, a 14-year veteran of the society, proudly showcased a picture of his grandfather, Henry, who ran away from his Maryland home to sign up with the Union’s Volunteer Corps for the fight against the South.

1 p.m. – East Main Street

The Portage Democratic Coalition’s table was in full swing, stacked high with political information and volunteer sign-ups.

Members Anita Bixenstine and Connie Craven, both of Kent, manned the booth for two hours and passed out “Impeach” bumper stickers and mints. Elsewhere, a coalition-supported petition circulated calling for universal health care.

1:30 p.m. – Train tracks

The historic train – two restored 1920s and 1930s Pullman cars with a 1950s caboose and a 1970s locomotive – left Kent for a half-hour ride to Towner’s Woods and back.

Jim and Lisa Smith of Ravenna rode the train for the benefit of their 12-year-old son, Ben.

“I have loved trains since ever I was born,” Ben said.

The train rumbled on the rarely used track, with branches and greenery brushing past it.

Ben stuck his head out the window, looking ahead.

“Watch out or a branch will come smack you in the face,” his father warned.

2:00 p.m. – South Water Street Kid’s Zone

Logan was dressed in a “Thomas the Tank Engine” T-shirt and colorful shorts.

The 3-year-old had a good time jumping in the kid’s fun room, trying his hardest to stand up on the crowded trampoline.

The children’s area, on the lower end of Water Street, included such activities as miniature golf and a “Dunk a cheerleader or football player” ball-throwing game.

2:45 p.m. – Main Stage

Local musician Hal Walker brought his act, acoustic guitar and harmonica, to the stage.

Walker delighted the crowd by singing “Home in Ohio” and bringing his daughter, 9-year-old Hallie, on stage to sing the song he wrote for the city’s bicentennial celebrations.

“Kent, Ohio, I know that I’m home when I’m home in Kent, Ohio.”

3 p.m. – Franklin Avenue and Erie Street

Tommy “Tomcat” Clowers and Jeff “Fulltilt” Tilton from TnT Motocross took turns performing dirt bike stunts. Each seemed to freeze for a moment in the air as he stuck out his arms, tilted the bike or lifted his body completely away from it.

Kent resident Harry Saunders watched from the sidelines. He cheered along with the crowd after each safe landing.

After the show, he said he’d only seen something like that on TV and videogames.

“It was real special,” Saunders said.

4:25 p.m. – Water and Main streets

Danielle Afflick, a Theodore Roosevelt High School student, held her Pomeranian Chihuahua puppy, Bubba, in the palm of her hand.

A group of friends and admirers surrounded her.

She said the dog weighed one pound, but would only reach five when full grown.

“Like my puppy?” Afflick asked a passerby.

6:10 p.m. – The Cuyahoga River

Kent Jaycees volunteers and spectators waited for the first of 1,100 plastic ducks, released from McKay Bricker Framing Gallery, to reach them.

Six men from Kent Jaycees stood in the river behind chicken wire net with a small opening in the center to catch the first duck, worth $500.

Ducks over the Falls is the Jaycees’ largest fundraiser, said volunteer Beth Textor.

A girl knelt next to the river.

“No body parts can touch the water!” one of the men yelled to her.

Kent resident Kim Host held 6 six tickets.

“Shhh!” she said when the first duck bobbed against the net.

7:29 p.m. – Main Stage

Stow resident Kristen Vanik sang Nancy Sinatra’s “These Boots Are Made for Walking” in the young adult category of Kent Idol.

She said she was nervous before going on stage, but was fine once she got up there.

“One of these days these boots are gonna walk all over you,” she sang as she pointed to the crowd.

Adrienne Smedley, a voice teacher at Woodsy’s Music, announced each performer. She said there were no judges at the event, which was meant to “showcase Kent talent.”

9:00 p.m. – Main Stage

Dressed in a simple “Ohio State” T-shirt and blue jeans, magician Eric Brouman entertained the packed audience with his childlike demeanor and subtle adult comedy.

Emma Peshek, 10, said her favorite trick was “when he put the piece of paper in his mouth and pulled out a colored ribbon.”

10 p.m. – Downtown Kent

Fireworks began with a large red warning blast in the night sky. Kent Festers scrambled for “a good spot,” which included the library parking lot and below the Main Street bridge.

Kent resident Becky Caplinger sat in a chair on Gougler Avenue and watched the fireworks with her husband.

She said they were going to find a better spot next year.

“We just barely saw them over the trees,” Caplinger said.

Contact news correspondent Chris Hook at [email protected]

and principal reporter Kiera Manion-Fischer at [email protected].