Kent celebrates 200th birthday with Bicentennial Parade

Jenna Gerling

Credit: Steve Schirra

Students in colorful band uniforms paced around the lawn in front of the Music and Speech Building. Nervous girls practiced twirling batons and waving flags.

People of all ages lined the sidewalks of East Main Street with lawn chairs, but the children had the right idea — they held plastic grocery bags awaiting handfuls of candy.

All were waiting for Kent’s Bicentennial Parade to begin. And once it did, the city started celebrating its 200th birthday.

Kent marked its bicentennial year Saturday with the parade, which featured marching bands and floats with themes ranging from the religious to the historical.

Organized by Kent’s Bicentennial Committee, the parade began at 10 a.m. on East Main Street and ended at the Home Savings Plaza downtown, where judges handed out trophies to the first and second place winners of each category .

More than 30 floats were part of the parade. Marching bands from Kent State, Hiram College, Theodore Roosevelt and Waterloo high schools also participated.

“I thought (the parade) had a good representation of floats,” said Harold Walker, a Kent resident since 1973. “I especially liked The Standing Rock Cultural Arts group –they did a very imaginative job.”

Standing Rock, a community cultural arts center at 257 N. Water St., won the judge’s award with its theme, “Missing Animals of Ohio.” Participants wore handmade masks and carried large puppets in the shape of animals such as the lynx and the alligator gar, a mammoth primitive fish found in Ohio.

Karen Barrett, co-chair of the Bicentennial Committee, said she expected 1,000 to 2,000 to attend the parade.

“(An event like this) won’t happen again for another 200 years, so it’s OK that we make it extravagant,” she said.

Katelyn Smith, junior costume design major, said she was glad to see so many people coming out to be a part of history.

“It’s a once in a lifetime thing,” she said. “I like that there’s this big nostalgic weekend — yesterday was the Black Squirrel Festival, today the parade, and tomorrow Art in the Park.”

One special guest included Dick Goddard, Fox 8 News meteorologist.

The committee had the parade in the making for more than a year now, Barrett said.

She said an event like this would be impossible to put together if it weren’t for all of the committee’s volunteers.

“We’re very grateful for the parade participants, and all those who worked behind the scenes who made it possible for this to happen,” Barrett said.

Contact performing arts reporter Jenna Gerling at [email protected].


First place floats and their categories:

Community — Kent American Legion

Corporate — Star of the West Milling Company

Religious — Kent United Methodist Church

Historical — Rockton Masonic Lodge

Youth — Kent Bicentennial Youth Choir

Second place floats and their categories:

Community — American Legion

Corporate — Woodsy’s Music Audio Video Inc.

Religious — Unitarian Universalist Church of Kent

Historical — Stow-Glen Retirement Village

Youth — “Black Squirrel Kids”

Mayor’s award:

Franklin’s Cub Scouts

Judges’ award:

Standing Rock Cultural Arts

Best of parade award:

Thomas Anderson Corporation