Main Street Kent kept downtown lively in 2021

Photo of a red brick road intersection in downtown Kent. The street signs on the corner read franklin ave and Erie Street
Natalie Wolford/The Portager

Main Street Kent carried out a full slate of projects and programs in 2021, all while navigating the many challenges presented by operating in the second year of the Covid-19 pandemic. 

The nonprofit, whose mission is to support Kent’s downtown businesses, released its 2021 annual report on Friday.

They began 2021 with regional media attention. Heather Malarcik, Main Street Kent’s executive director, was interviewed on FOX 8 News about their story walk, Squirrel’s New Year’s Resolution. Local businesses displayed different pages from a story, encouraging people to walk around downtown and window shop. This was one of the three story walks organized this year, the most recent being Dragon’s Merry Christmas.

In addition to these walks, Main Street Kent organized several events downtown, including the Harry Potter-themed Wizardly Weekend in July, the eighth annual Round Town Music Festival (formerly the Kent State Folk Festival) in September, and Kent Oktoberfest in September. 

Currently, Main Street Kent, along with Kent State, the City of Kent and numerous other organizations, are putting on Kent Skates, which lets anyone ice skate for free in an outdoor rink between the Kent State Hotel & Conference Center and the PARTA facility. Anyone can rent skates and use the skating rink for free Wednesday through Sunday (Mondays and Tuesdays are reserved for group outings). The rink will be available through the end of February and aims to draw people back downtown during the cold winter months.

Main Street Kent also promoted foot traffic through the downtown area by developing two self-guided walking tours. These walks were created in partnership with Josie Meyers and Jen Mapes, geographers at Kent State. The Public Art Walk and the History of Industry in Kent walk, which was developed in collaboration with the Kent Historical Society, are both available online.

Speaking of public art, the Main Street Kent Design Committee had some visible successes in 2021, including the 3-D “KENT” block text sculpture installed on North Water Street and the new “GROW” mural that you can see from North Water Street on the back of the Hall-Green Agency building. 

It also collaborated with the Kent Community TimeBank to build the Little Box of Kindness outside Scribbles Coffee Co. The Little Box of Kindness operates on the “take a book, leave a book” model of Little Free Libraries, only instead of books people are encouraged to exchange “tokens of kindness.”

Building off the success of the Designated Outdoor Refreshment Area (DORA), Main Street Kent updated the downtown kiosk maps. The updated maps include accurate business listings and display the DORA boundaries and rules, making it easy for pedestrians to know where they can enjoy their drinks.

Finally, Main Street Kent introduced a new Kent Card program in 2021. The Kent Card is a gift card that can be spent in over 25 restaurants, bakeries, breweries and shops in Kent.

It’s worth noting that Main Street Kent, like all nonprofits, has had its fundraising impacted by the ongoing pandemic. To help Main Street Kent organize more events, anyone can become a Friend of Main Street or volunteer. The Main Street Kent calendar is available with upcoming events, and you can sign up for their newsletter.

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Richie Koch is a Portager contributor.

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