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For Bonny's Bread owner Bonny Graham, events such as "The Picnic" are what enhance downtown Kent and the city's overall mission of drawing visitors from surrounding communities.
"If you have attractions like this, it inspires us," she said. "It goes right along with the concept of Kent being a destination."
Courtesy of Space 2 Do Productions and Standing Rock Cultural Arts, "The Picnic" filled the Home Savings Bank Plaza with live music, food, art and dance on an unseasonably cool afternoon Friday
While donations were collected for Standing Rock Cultural Arts, the event itself was free and open to all.
A table with maracas and a kazoo encouraged passersby to pick up an instrument and play along with the bands. Another table featured a blank tapestry visitors could doodle on with an array of paints.
Anton Vegel, a Kent resident and English instructor at Kent State University, visited the event to support his friends' band, Excuses, and the overall local art and music scene.
"It's always nice to show local support for something," he said. "You should feel at home in your hometown, and here, there's lots to come out and do and support. The more people have to leave town to do things they want to do or need, it's just not good for that city."
Ana Sigler relaxed on the grass among a couple dozen visitors while listening to the live music. A Peace Corps volunteer, Sigler said she came to "The Picnic" as a "last hurrah" of sorts before she leaves for Africa June 10.
"I'm from Northeast Ohio, and I chose to come to Kent because I always saw this area as more environmentally conscious and appreciative of the arts," she said. "These events foster a sense of community. And it's something great people can just walk right by and join in on, and there's not a whole lot of towns where you can do that anymore."
Alyssa D'Amico, owner of Kent's Niche Wellness, said she came out to show her support for Standing Rock Cultural Arts.
"Some of the most amazing events that happen in Kent are because of Standing Rock," she said, noting the art shows and children's theater productions are some of her personal favorites. "Creativity is important to life, and sometimes it's shut down in other areas of our own lives, so it's important to share and support that when you can."
Jeff Ingram, executive director of Standing Rock Cultural Arts, said there may be another event like "The Picnic" in the future, but noted any function put on by the non-profit is merely an extension of the group's overall mission: "nurturing the spirit of creativity in all forms."
"I think we're going through an era of technological advances where communities are being redefined. There's virtual communities, and lots of people spend their time on computers and their phones, but they don't engage face-to-face," he said. "This is an opportunity to engage face-to-face, to not just hear music over speakers or you iPhone, but to see the people performing that music and the heart that comes out of it. And I think that's all still very important in our community."
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