On Friday, July 1 from 6 to 9 p.m., everyone’s favorite six-string assemblage of wood and wires will be taking over Kenmore First Friday. Unofficially titled “Virgil Lay Day,” it promises to be a celebration for the ages.
Strumming and shredding a-plenty will resonate throughout the Kenmore Boulevard Historic District, with guitar heroes Big Pop and The Buffalo Ryders delivering their hard-hitting riffs on the SIT Strings Main Stage. Featured artists from The Electric Company will entertain in the McCutchen Courtyard, and local hip-hop legend King Locust will rock the mic hard in the Live Music Now Courtyard. Akorn Jammers Open Mic will feature local singer-songwriters in front of the Rialto Theatre.
The breadth of the music styles represent Kenmore’s musical history well, said Corey Jenkins, Kenmore Neighborhood Alliance’s promoter and experience manager.
“Kenmore Boulevard has held a special connection with guitars and the people who play them for decades ever since Lay’s Guitar Repair opened in the 1960s,” Jenkins said. In 1980, Lay’s founder Virgil Lay founded SIT Strings – a global guitar string manufacturing company – on Kenmore Blvd.
“Musician’s Bargain Basement hit the Boulevard in the 1980s and served as a destination for guitar lovers throughout the region until it closed in 2008. Then, The Guitar Department opened in 2009 and has become one of Northeast Ohio’s most popular guitar shops,” he explained.
Starting at noon, Lay’s Guitar Shop will hold an open house and present some of their favorite guitarists on the main stage, including Kenmore’s Jim Ballard and a workshop from Bedell Guitars. At 5:45 p.m., representatives from Lay’s Guitar Shop and SIT Strings will join Mayor Dan Horrigan and members of Virgil Lay’s family at the corner of 15th Street and the Kenmore South Alley to dedicate Virgil Lay Way. Then, at 9 p.m., thrash surfers The Beyonderers land on the The Rialto Theatre’s stage, followed by the classic mid-century instrumental surf and twang sounds of Purple k’niF, which features Waitresses founder Chris Butler on drums and Kenmore High School alum Johnny Teagle on guitar.
SIT Strings, Lay’s Guitar Shop, The Guitar Department and Staff Music (where Lay originally repaired guitars) will all have informational tables on the Boulevard with product, history, promotional items and more.
In addition, Kenmore-based guitar amp builder Custom Audio Mutation will team up with EarthQuaker Devices to host a demo room inside of Studio 1008 (the old Musician’s Bargain Basement), where visitors will be able to check out custom hand-built guitar amplifiers and demo an entire range of EarthQuaker guitar effects pedals.
The Kenmore First Friday Beer Garden will showcase Akron-based Lock 15 Brewing Company, and Kenmore Boulevard will be lined with dining options like Macho Nacho, Johnny Lóte’s Latin Street Corn, Dee’s Dogs & More and Kona Ice food trucks, along with The Nite Owl, Pierre's Brooklyn Pizza & Deli and Kenmore Eastern Sports Bar, who will have specials running all night.
In addition to experiencing everything guitar, Kenmore First Friday visitors can check out the Torchbearers’ inaugural Community Volunteer Fair, the perfect opportunity to learn about community nonprofits and to find a local organization to get involved with.
“This event is really a culmination of so many things that are good about our community,” said KNA Executive Director Tina Boyes. “ And with all this great energy, I encourage everyone to check out the people and organizations who are making it happen: in Kenmore and throughout Akron.”