A festive Fourth of July

By Diane Smith Record-Courier staff writer Published:

Despite the morning's rainfall and a light shower in the early afternoon in Kent, thousands of visitors listened to music on three stages, toured the Rowe Museum and the Kent Masonic Temple, and enjoyed train rides, children's activities, crafts, food and fireworks during the Heritage Festival.

Elsewhere, residents enjoyed parades, fireworks and picnics in several communities, including Aurora and Stow, which celebrated the holiday with annual parades, and Hiram, which held its annual "Sock Hop in the Street" and ice cream and strawberry social.

Mary Michel, executive director of the Kent Area Chamber of Commerce, estimated the crowd at the Heritage Festival was even bigger than last year's, a fact she found surprising because it was the first time the Heritage Festival wasn't held under sunny skies.

"It's amazing," she said. "It's a great opportunity for people to come together as a community."

All 10 excursions on the train rides sold out, giving 1,350 people a chance to ride from downtown to Towner's Woods park and back.

Five-year-old Joey Italia and his mom, Theresa, of Kent, were lucky enough to obtain two of the coveted caboose seats when a handful of people who had reserved train tickets failed to pick them up.

Joey said he liked "the part where we stopped and came back and the part where we went fast and went slow."

The theme of the festival was Leap into History, and local third graders got into the act by designing projects illustrating Kent's first recorded events. Winning projects were on display at the former All-Pro building, where visitors could check out projects like the popsicle stick mill constructed by James Jones of Longcoy Elementary School along with items from local historian John Carson's collection.

"This is the mill that used to be in Kent," a sign accompanying the model stated. "But the rains made floods that destroyed the mill. So they decided not to make the mill any more."

A crowd of festival-goers gathered at Erie Street and Franklin Avenue to watch independent glass blowers Mike Lavinsky, Clayton Sanders, Ed Francis and Ed Graff create unique items out of glass while listening to music at the nearby Franklin stage.

"Don't ask me what I'm going to make," Sanders told the crowd. "I can't tell you what I'm going to make."

The display was sponsored by Steinert Industries, which manufactures glassblowing equipment at its plant in Kent. The company's owners, John Steinert and his wife, Charlene, are planning to transform the city's former water plant into a glassblowing school and gallery.

"As soon as it stopped raining, we had 40 people come by here," he said. "It's pretty nice."

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