Parents with excited children on their shoulders enjoyed unseasonably warm temperatures as Santa rode into downtown Kent via train Saturday to help flip the switch on more lights and decorations than ever.
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The upgrade to the Kent Christmas scene included $65,000 in decorations along the Cuyahoga River bridge, garlands connecting Main and Water streets, large snowflakes on lamp posts, lights along Acorn Alley and a 16-foot tall animated Santa Claus on top of Acorn Corner.
The two-year upgrade project, which will include more lights along Erie and Depeyster streets after renovations along those streets are finished, is mostly the work of Main Street Kent and a consortium of businesses, individuals and organizations, said Michelle Hartmann, vice president of The Burbick Companies, the development firm responsible for Acorn Alley.
“Kent is quickly becoming a destination city with its unique mix of retail and restaurants,” Hartmann said. “It is exciting to see so many people spending the day or evening shopping and eating downtown and enjoying the heart of the city, which is beautifully decorated for the holiday season.”
The evening had something for everyone: temperatures in the low 50s for delighted adults; visits with Santa and letter-writing for the kids; entertainment by the A.C.E.s choir from Theodore Roosevelt High School for all; and a showing of holiday movies on a large screen in the middle of Main Street for viewers young and old.
"The Festival of Lights is a perfect way to kick off the Christmas season, and shows that the city of Kent actively cares for its residents," said lifelong Kent resident Gordon Wall, a member of the high-school choir who sang Saturday night.
"It's great to be a part of the community and seeing the downtown lights," said Kentite Jeanie Rhinehart Willis, who was downtown with her husband and four children. "Christmas is in the air."