Where can you see a 12-piece jazz orchestra, taste-test hot sauces, shop for jewelry, t-shirts and bath bombs, and learn a four-chord song in just a few hours? Nowhere other than Kenmore First Fridays.
Every first Friday of the month from 6 to 9 p.m., May to September, Kenmore Neighborhood Alliance welcomes hundreds of residents young and old to back to the Boulevard for a night of family fun and entertainment. The celebrations include food trucks, children’s activities like bounce houses, and craft beer at the Live Music Now Beer Garden, where you can also catch some of the region’s best talent in local rock, hip-hop, jazz and blues.
The Sept. 6 Kenmore First Friday theme is Back to School Superheroes. Kids, adults and even pets are encouraged to dress up as their favorite superhero. Kenmore Komics & Games will be the landing spot for surprise visitors from far-off galaxies. Plus, kids can create bike decorations at stops along the Boulevard, then show them off during a 7:45 bike parade. Prizes will be awarded to best-decorated bike and runner-up.
As always, every 15 minutes starting at 6 p.m. musicians perform outside businesses throughout the Boulevard District. On Sept. 6, the band Kissmass will play hits off the Kiss’s “Alive” album, and rappers Floco Torres and LDG will keep the crowds moving. Plus, don’t miss Martha’s Mistake as they cover all eras and genres, and Michael Stanley guitarist Marc Lee Shannon, who will inspire fans at the New Beginnings stage.
More than a dozen vendors will sell everything from Kenmore t-shirts to jewelry made with guitar strings used by local musicians. Dawn Meehan, a Castle Homes resident and owner of MeehanMakings, sells Kenmore-pride and nostalgia items, including Nesmith Lake mugs and Arena Roller Rink koozies. She sees the First Fridays as more than a way to make money, but a means of bringing pride back to the community.
“First Friday events are such a positive time for Kenmore. It is a great time to showcase local talent, artists and makers,” Meehan said. “I also believe it is a great way to get people back out on the Boulevard to see what is happening and to check out the local businesses. There are great things to down there.”
The events are also a launching point for new businesses, including Kickstand Coffee Company and Lil Bit Café. During First Fridays, Kickstand owners Patrick and Maggie Jackson, both Kenmore residents, sell coffee and iced drinks in front of their soon-to-be location at 975 Kenmore Blvd., a building KNA bought in April with hopes of attracting a coffee shop to the Boulevard. Each month, JOBS (Jump on Board for Success), a nonprofit that provides culinary training to single mothers in the area, offers a taste of what will be featured in their space at 992 Kenmore Blvd. when the café opens this fall.
“The First Fridays get us out of the kitchen to promote the program,” said Jennifer Herrick, the JOBS culinary program coordinator. “Folks get to see the girls and talk to them about what they have learned. It has also gets us in front of potential new students and mentors.”
Kenmore First Fridays are presented by Kenmore Neighborhood Alliance and Coldwell Banker Schmidt Realty and are sponsored by Kenmore Chamber of Commerce, Akron Promise, A-Z Insurance-Dustin Burgess Insurance Group, Freedom Tax Akron, Kenmore Komics & Games, Pegasus Lounge, Schlup-Pucak Funeral Home, Smith's House of Carpet, Summit County Executive Ilene Shapiro, Summit County Public Health and the City of Akron. For more information about this and other events, visit the Kenmore Neighborhood Alliance Facebook page at www.facebook.com/knacares.