Kent Stage celebrates 4th anniversary this week

Ben Plassard

The Kent Stage, located on Main Street in Downtown Kent, is celebrating its fourth anniversary this week. Since it opened, artists such as Bo Diddley and Pete Best have performed at the venue. STEPHANIE SMITH | DAILY KENT STATER

Credit: Carl Schierhorn

A four-year anniversary isn’t exactly cause for champagne and celebration, but when it comes to the Kent Stage, everyone seems to want in on the party.

The Kent Stage, 175 E. Main St., celebrates its fourth anniversary this week, and in those four years the concert venue has given the community and businesses of Kent reason to cheer.

Originally opened as The New Kent Theater in 1928, the Kent Stage has been both a historic and economic staple in Northeast Ohio for more than 70 years.

“The Kent Stage keeps the tradition of live music in Kent,” said Dan Smith, member of the Kent Chamber of Commerce. “It is a tremendous asset to the economy of Kent and it has a positive effect on the city.”

Ron Syroid, who handles public relations for the Kent Stage, said the old theater was the first movie house to show a talking film, or a talkie, in Portage County. The Jazz Singer debuted March 25, 1928, and up until four years ago, the Kent Stage remained a movie house and went through various internal changes.

In 2002, the theater was stripped and turned into the Kent Stage, with the focus on becoming the premier folk venue in Northeast Ohio.

Through all of these changes, one thing has remained constant over the years – the way the community of Kent embraces the Kent Stage.

“The Kent Stage provides the city of Kent with new income for the city and provides a benefit to the city,” said Mike Weddle, economic development coordinator for the city of Kent. “The Kent Stage provides an economic burst to the city of Kent, and we encourage continued activity.”

This boost to the economy is something that can be attributed to the citizens of Kent and to the people who come from out of town to see the shows.

“There are attendees from 17 states and Canada that have come to the Kent Stage,” Syroid said. “This is a tremendous economic boost for the hotels, bars and restaurants of Kent.”

Both Smith and Weddle agree the live music featured at the Kent Stage, combined with tourism has a continued, positive effect on the city.

“You have people going to dinner, going shopping and filling up at gas stations,” Smith said. “These intangibles are great for the city and the chamber is pleased to have a venue like the Kent Stage.”

Ray’s Place employee Tom Creech said there is a definite boost in business on the nights the Kent Stage has shows.

Since 2002, the Kent Stage has been graced with many big name acts, ranging from folk to blues, such as Joan Baez, Bo Diddley, Richie Havens, ex-Beatle Pete Best and Little Feat. The Kent Stage was rated best acoustic venue by the Plain Dealer’s Friday magazine, Syroid said, and it shows no signs of slowing down.

To celebrate this weekend’s anniversary, the Kent Stage welcomes Ralph Stanley and the Clinch Mountain Boys, with the David Mayfield Band as support Saturday night.

Tickets are $25 in advance or $30 the day of show.

The Kent Stage has concerts planned through the summer and will continue to emphasize folk music and local talent for years to come, Syroid said.

For more information about the Kent Stage, visit

Contact off-campus entertainment reporter Ben Plassard at [email protected].