The Celtic Club is inviting pet lovers and their pets to dress in their finest Irish attire and come to the Hometown Bank Plaza for a walk and parade through downtown starting at noon Saturday.
"It's the ninth year for St. Pet's Day, but this is the first time for the parade," said Jim Collver of the Celtic Club. "The mayor of Kent, Jerry Fiala will be the head of the parade."
This year, Collver is putting a twist on the usual month long pet food drive for St. Pet's Day with three events. ShamRockin' with the Celtic Club at Dueber Elementary School in Canton took place in February and a free show with the MacConmara Irish Dancers in Cuyahoga Falls was earlier this month. The final part of the ninth annual St. Pet's Day is the St. Pet's Day Pet Walk.
"Last year, St. Pet's Day was just enormous," Collver said. "There were 70 donations sites in Stark, Portage and Summit counties and it was just me doing this. It got as big as I could make it by myself and it was a really efficient way to get the pet food."
Collver, who also organizes the Bras Across the Crooked River event to create breast cancer awareness, hopes to make St. Pet's Day a big event in the future.
"I think the parade is something that with time can become very large," Collver said. "I'd like it to become a full-blown parade and we hope to get a lot of pet food donations that way. There's a couple of big things we're working on and we hope to add events later this year instead of having St. Pet's Day during March,"
Collver also plans on incorporating pet awareness in the events.
"The whole idea of St. Pet's Day used to be get as much pet food donations as possible," Collver said. "We got mass amounts of pet food, but I think I want to begin to incorporate more of an element of pet awareness and the welfare of pets. We've always had at least one show at an elementary school each year, but we're going to try to add a couple more of those."
Collver said reaching out to the young community is important to create awareness.
"We want to reach out to people at a early age," Collver said. "We bring rescue groups with their pets into schools and they socialize with the students. We want them to associate St. Pet's Day with seeing the important part that pets play in all of our lives. The love that you give to pets is more than returned by the pets to their owner."
Collver said the walk will be a way for local residents to give back. People attending the pet walk are asked to please bring donations of dry dog or cat food and cat litter for the humane and animal rescue groups.
"Kent is a community that in my opinion has a heart as big as outdoors," Collver said. "I think they just love their pets and this will be a fun event to participate in and watch all the pets with their shamrock scarves on."
Collver said if the weather cooperates, he hopes for at least 100 people with their pets.
"We've got a lot of fliers out and we've notified a lot of the rescue groups," Collver said. "I think we have a good solid start and then expect to grow from there in the following years."
Rescue groups participating in the parade include Ohio Greyhound Gathering and Adoption, Ron's Rescued Rascals, Inc., The Humane Society of Greater Akron and Heaven Can Wait.
"There will be rescue groups that day and whatever we're fortunate enough to receive that day is going to leave with them at the end of the event," Collver said.
Akron's Heaven Can Wait animal rescue shelter will be one of the recipients of the pet food that is donated at the walk.
"We rescue animals from the Summit County pound in Akron," said Heather Nagel, co-founder of Heaven Can Wait. "Our organization will be there on Saturday in the pet walk and we will be bringing some available dogs that are looking for homes."
Nagel said there are collection sites all over Summit County for the pet food.
"Since it's the first time we're having the walk, we're hoping it's a success and people bring items out," Nagel said. "Anything helps when you are a non-profit. We run solely on donations and we're all volunteers. No matter what the brand is or how much we get, we really appreciate it because that's how we feed our animals."
Nagel said the walk is a fun way to come out with your pet and have a good time, but it's also a way to help local animal rescues.
Nagel founded Heaven Can Wait ten yeas ago.
"I personally had went to the pound to purchase a dog and I wasn't happy with the conditions I found there," Nagel said. "There were no other rescues at the time saving dogs from the pound, so myself and a couple others in the community formed Heaven Can Wait with the mission to get as many animals as we can out of the pound, give them the medical care they needed and find them homes. Ten years later, we've got a better pound and countless lives have been saved. All it takes is people caring enough to do something."
This year St. Pet's Day is in memory of late WNIR radio host Tom Erickson, a strong pet advocate. The honorary chairperson is Ravenna resident Dave Nethken.
The pet walk will take place at noon on Saturday in downtown Kent followed by live Irish music in the plaza.
For more information, call 330-867-0485 or firstname.lastname@example.org.