Light the Boulevard holiday contest brings cheer to Akron’s Kenmore neighborhood

By Jennifer Conn Spectrum News

Published December 16, 2022

Students at Innes Community Learning Center in Akron decorated a window on Kenmore Boulevard.

Kenmore Boulevard is ablaze with holiday cheer again this year.

Light the Boulevard, Kenmore Neighborhood Alliance’s annual initiative, is a window-decorating contest that enables business owners to show off their storefronts with festive displays, while bolstering end-of-year business.

Holiday revelers can vote online for their favorite display through Dec. 31, with the winner announced Jan. 2, 2023, KNA said.

Light the Boulevard is also a measure of the economic vitality the business district has exhibited in the past couple years, as small businesses have steadily filled the historic storefronts.

Kenmore Boulevard was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2019, and is the first Akron business district to receive the designation.

Currently, KNA counts about 40 businesses on the Boulevard, including at least 10 small businesses, that opened their doors during the pandemic, KNA reported.

The first year of Light the Boulevard was in 2020 when the city opted to let the neighborhoods provide holiday cheer rather than host the traditional tree lighting and other events downtown that drew large crowds.

That year, along with festive street décor, KNA offered 18 decorated storefronts, which were important for people seeking holiday cheer, organizers said.

At the time, local and federal officials were warning of the dangers of gathering in any capacity to avoid transmission of COVID-19.

With support from the city, Kenmore and a few other neighborhoods put up lights and decorations to give families a reason to bundle up the kids, jump in the car and drive around the city enjoying the holiday season.

Light the Boulevard launched in 2020 to bring cheer to families during the pandemic.

“What started out as a way to offer some joy during the pandemic has become a fun tradition,” said, KNA Executive Director Tina Boyes.

This year, Kenmore Boulevard is sporting 28 brightly lit windows. While not all of them have a brick-and-mortar presence on the strip, all are essential to the neighborhood, KNA said.

Some, like Rubber City Radio Group and The Summit.FM, are active in Kenmore year-round through the airwaves to lending musical expertise to special events.

Seventh- and eighth-grade art students at Innes Community Learning Center also decorated a window this year, Boyes said.

Akron METRO has a window, which is fitting, as METRO not only provides essential services for the neighborhood, Kenmore Boulevard also was once a hub of active streetcar and trolley traffic, KNA said.

Going northeast on the Boulevard toward Summit Lake, the Kenmore Boulevard Trolley Barns are still standing, with three, 500-foot bays where the Akron Transportation Co. stored and repaired the trolleys.

In the Light the Boulevard contest, the decorator of the window with the most votes will be awarded a $100 gift certificate to spend at a favorite Kenmore Boulevard business.

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