The 16th-annual Kent Heritage Festival is from 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. Saturday in downtown Kent. With everything from train rides to fireworks, the free event is designed to appeal to a wide age range.
"It's beneficial for our community because it's a coming together,” Kent Mayor Jerry Fiala said.
Entertainment begins on the Main Stage at 10 a.m. with a group from the Roberts Conservatory of Dance. Performances on the Erie Street and North Water Street stages start at 11 a.m. The entertainment is a mix of local dance studios, cloggers, belly dancers, local bands and a rock orchestra. A complete entertainment listing is available on the Kent Area Chamber of Commerce website.
“The fact is that there are so many different types of entertainment,” said Lori Wemhoff, executive director of the Kent Area Chamber of Commerce. “There's something for everyone.”
This year, there are more than 130 vendors scheduled to be downtown for the festival. Wemhoff said she has actually had to turn people away because downtown is at capacity for space.
Dan Smith, Kent economic development director, said the vending has a positive economic effect on the surrounding businesses.
“Most businesses tell me it's one of their, if not their best, business days of the year,” he said. “Cash registers are definitely ringing.”
There will be food carts, information tables for area businesses and organizations, and booths where artwork and other goods can be purchased.
Meagan Longanecker, 22, said this is the reason she's always excited for the Heritage Festival.
"It's a tradition that is unique to this city," she said. "I love seeing all of the locally made crafts and experiencing the community atmosphere."
Festivalgoers can also get tickets for the historic train ride. It boards downtown at the gazebo and travels south to Sunnybrook Road. This year, a fourth car, the Mt. Baxter Lounge Car built by Pullman in 1924, was added. Tickets can be purchased ahead of time from the Kent Area Chamber of Commerce or on the day of the event from the chamber’s booth, which has a white canopy and will be on the corner of Water Street and Main Street, Wemhoff said.
Fiala said he’s particularly looking forward to train rides.
“When I was a youngster ... it was a thing to do,” he said. “I love taking my grandkids.”
Smith agreed. “I'm a bit of a history buff, so I love the opportunity to see the train rides come to town every year.”
The United Way Tree City 5K race kicks off at 7 p.m. from Dix Stadium, and the course closes at 8 p.m. It runs from the stadium through the Kent State University campus and finishes downtown near the former DuBois Book Store. Those still interested in participating can register on the day of the event for $23. Awards will be given to the top three male and female finishers as well as to the top men's and women's masters in each age group.
Following the race, participants are invited to an after-party at 157 Lounge. Runners who are 21 or older will receive a free beer, and bar proceeds from the evening go to the United Way.
For more information about the race, check out the website.
Fireworks begin at 10 p.m. and will be launched from the former RB&W site on Mogadaore Road, instead of from Kramer Ball Fields at Fred Fuller Park, as Redmond Bridge is closed for safety reasons. Wemhoff said she is excited the city still gets to have fireworks because they're such a big crowd-pleaser.
"That's when the streets tend to fill up," she said.
There is no car show being held on Franklin Street this year. Rather than being a part of the Heritage Festival, NAPA Auto Parts used to coordinate the show in conjunction with the festival. When the store moved out of downtown to East Main Street, it was no longer sponsoring the event, and no other business or person stepped up to do it, Wemhoff said.
"We are hoping to have it again next year because it is very, very popular,” she said. “People are not happy."
In its absence, parking will be located on Franklin Street.
Because of the construction downtown, there will also be parking available at Terrace, White Hall and Rockwell parking lots on the Kent State University campus. PARTA will be shuttling people from these lots to downtown.