Kent celebrates heritage at festival (with photo gallery)

By Jeremy Nobile | Staff Writer Published:

Music, fine weather for most of the day and the vibrancy of downtown were on the minds of the droves who filled out the Kent Heritage Festival Saturday.

Lori Wemhoff, Kent Chamber of Commerce executive director and festival chair, said people likely turned out in record numbers for the 18th annual celebration. While about 25,000 were expected to turnout throughout the day, around 4:30 p.m., Wemhoff said downtown probably saw that much traffic already.

"There's not a bad spot to have a booth this year because people are coming down Main Street, they're coming down Erie Street -- it's just been nonstop," she said, noting the tally of 130 vendors this year was an all-time high.

The festival is one the largest yet, in terms of space. Musical performances were spread across stages throughout downtown for the first time since redevelopment projects began. Erie Street was one road blocked by orange-barrel construction during last year's festival.

During the fireworks show, downtown would be a "sea of humanity."

"We're all trying to make all of Kent a destination," Wemhoff said, "and I think if you look around today, that's truly what it is."

Maggie McKendry, Kent Jaycees vice president and chair of the Jaycess' rubber duck race, said sales of the ducks that would race down the Cuyahoga River exceeded expectations.

She said between 500-700 ducks were sold for the 2012 race, and this year's total exceeded 1,000.

"There's definitely more people downtown than last year -- our sales can support that testament," McKendry said.

Kent Police Officers Norm Jacobs and Matt Butcher have provided security at Heritage Fest for years. They, too, were surprised by the large turnout.

Jacbos, a Kent native, said the difference this year is more children and families, adding the redeveloped downtown business sector is likely a draw.

"There just seem to be a lot more for them all to do, and there are also a lot of family-oriented booths this year," he said, noting the crowds often grow rowdier as the night sets in.

The festival's music drew plenty of visitors of all ages.

Nancy and Richard Truman, of Akron, are festival veterans who also chalk up the day's large turnout to the downtown Richard referenced as an ideal mix of old and new construction.

Aleaya Pervall, 15, of Ravenna, said she's been to Heritage Fest at least six or seven times.

"I love downtown," she said. "The nice weather helps, but I think there are more people here too because downtown has been built more. There are more stores to go to and more places to eat. There's just way more to do in Kent than Ravenna."

Kent native Ian Lucas, 44, marveled at the activity downtown. He's been going to the annual festival since he was 10. To him, it will always be called "Kent Fest."

"There's just more humanity, more noises, more smells -- it just feels more vibrant," he said.

Contact this reporter at 330-298-1126 or jnobile@recordpub.com

Facebook: Jeremy Nobile, Record-Courier

Twitter: @jnobile_RPC

Want to leave your comments?

Sign in or Register to comment.