ALL about… Festival of Lights

Robert Taylor

Choirs sing for people in downtown Kent. COURTESY OF DAN SMITH

Credit: Jason Hall

People will have a chance to get in touch with their inner children this weekend in Downtown Kent by attending the Kent’s annual Festival of Lights.

It will be an old-fashioned Christmas when the festival begins Saturday at 5:30 p.m., with many opportunities to get in the holiday spirit and celebrate the season over the course of the evening.

Kent Chamber of Congress executive director Dan Smith has been active in the festival for eight years and said he feels the atmosphere surrounding the event is one of the main components of its success.

“It happens in our historical downtown, not some mall,” Smith said. “Instead of going to chain stores, they can enjoy an old-fashioned Christmas while, in the process, supporting local businesses and merchants at the same time.”

At 5:30 p.m. the event will begin with musical entertainment. The Kent Roosevelt choir will perform as on-lookers will certainly find themselves humming along to the classic melodies.

Those walking through the downtown area will be able to experience a great deal of atmosphere and spirit, while sipping free hot chocolate and munching on doughnuts.

“I’m really excited and do my best to go every year,” said senior history major Demetrius White. “When I’m there, I just enjoy feeling like I’m part of the Kent community, plus I always look forward to the free hot chocolate.”

Those attending will also have the opportunity to take a ride in a Clydesdale-drawn carriage around the Kent downtown area.

“I went to Kent for my undergraduate work and I’ve never been to the Festival of Lights nor have I ever gotten the chance to see a real-life Clydesdale,” said Kent State graduate student Gwen Peake. “So I’m really excited to go to the Festival of Lights and I want to take my three nephews down. I’m thrilled about taking in the whole experience.”

And, of course, what would a Christmas Festival be like without Santa Claus on hand to spread joy and cheer? In past years, good ‘ole St. Nick arrived on a train, Smith said. This year he will arrive at 6 p.m.

Once Santa arrives, young children can have pictures taken with him. If they miss the big man they can send a letter to the North Pole and Smith said they will get a response from Santa soon.

The event has a lot to offer for Kent State students as well.

“It’s a chance for them to meet townsfolk,” Smith said. “I’m not sure most would get excited about seeing Santa, but they can have hot chocolate and take in the atmosphere. The ones that are allowed can stick around and visit the eateries and pubs later that evening.”

Festival of Lights

Where? Downtown Kent

When? 5:30 – 7:30 p.m. Saturday

How much? Free

Many local businesses are extending their hours for the event, and local art galleries will be open to display local holiday-themed artwork. The Kent Historical Society Museum will also be open late for the Festival.

“I’m really looking forward to going for the first time because I think it’s a great way to kick off the Christmas season,” said Marisia Styles, senior political science major.

NewsChannel 5 predicts that the weather will be in the upper 30s with light snow on Saturday, a light sprinkling of snow should add to the mood of the event on Saturday.

Expect a large turnout of local color to mingle and bond with, Smith said.

“We used to think that 500 is a good turnout for the Festival,” Smith said. “However, one year it was very warm and we had over 1,000 come out.”

The event is free, as are the carriage rides, and the local color will give people attending reasons to stay.

“You get to see your friends and neighbors while taking in the ambiance of downtown,” Smith said. “It’s a long tradition, and this year we will continue that festive atmosphere.”

Contact ALL correspondent Robert Taylor at [email protected].