Rainbow Weekend is coming to Kent – here are all the events you can attend

Rainbow Weekend 2022 is Oct. 7 and 8 in downtown Kent. Submitted photo

The second annual Rainbow Weekend will color downtown Kent on Oct. 7 and 8, with multiple events planned to celebrate the LGBTQ+ community.

“We want to showcase Kent as the open, welcoming and inviting community that it is. Highlighting some of the artists and talent and businesses that are supportive of the LGBTQ community is all a part of that,” Main Street Kent Executive Director Heather Malarcik said.

The first Rainbow Weekend was held in 2020, Malarcik said. Covid sidelined the festival until this year, but the event is once again ready to roll.

“Rainbow Weekend highlights the amazing resources that exist in Northeast Ohio for LGBTQ+ people and to let folks know that Kent and Kent State are welcome, inclusive places, and that we want everyone to feel welcome, that there’s a place for them at the table,” said Ken Ditlevson, Kent State’s LGBTQ+ Center director. 

Noting that Pride Month is in June, when many Kent State students are out of town, Ditlevson said holding Rainbow Weekend in October, which is LGBTQ+ history month, is a perfect fit. The idea, he said, is to educate all people.

“It’s important because many LGBTQ+ individuals have not felt included in different spaces, so having spaces and times to celebrate our community is very important to finding affirmation and building connections within the community,” he said.

Bar crawl

Check in at the Water Street Tavern from 5-7 p.m. Friday, Oct. 7 to participate in the Rainbow Weekend Bar Crawl. Participants will receive a bar crawl pass, Absolut mason jar, rainbow jello shot, Kent Rainbow Weekend bracelet and swag.

Guests will automatically be entered to win a grand prize. The drawing will be held the week of Oct. 10.

Participating venues are Bar Lucci, Barflyy, Barrio Tacos, Bell Tower Brewing, Ray’s Place, The Loft, Dominick’s, Kent State Hotel, North Water Brewing, The Pub in Kent, Venice Cafe, Water Street Tavern and Zephyr Pub.

The bar crawl costs $15 to participate.

Rainbow Run

Register online for the seventh annual Love Glows On Rainbow Run, which will take place from 7-10 p.m. Friday, Oct. 7, starting at Risman Plaza on the KSU campus.

Tickets are $20 ($25 for non-students), with sales ending Oct. 7. A portion of proceeds will benefit the KSU LGBTQ+ Center Emergency Fund, which supports KSU students who are in difficult situations. Ditlevson says students who come out are sometimes disowned by their families, catapulting them into financial and emotional crisis.

After the run, kick back at the North Water Brewing Co. for a free End of the Rainbow celebration.

Music and art

Friday’s entertainment includes Van Sailin’ from 6-9 p.m. at the Water Street Tavern, DJ Jeff Tritt from 10 p.m. to close at the 157 Lounge, and the Rocky Horror Picture Show at 11:59 p.m. at The Kent Stage. Live music will also be on tap at 9 p.m. at the Zephyr Pub: artist(s) TBA.

For those feeling artsy on Friday, the FJKluth Art Gallery on North Water Street will host Pride in Kent from noon to 5 p.m. Bell Tower Brewing will offer a Rainbow Weekend Art Exhibit from noon to 11 p.m. and a Rainbow Flower Bar by Bellflower from 4-8 p.m.

Also on Friday, True Colors, a multi-media presentation by SULO BEE, Levaille Eitzenman, Catherine Lentini, Jenniffer Omaitz, Thomas Martinez Piilnick, and gallery owner Kelly Dietrick, will be exhibited at Troppus Projects, with a reception from 5-7 p.m. 

Troppus Projects is located at 141 E Main St. The gallery is open from 4-6 p.m. Wednesday through Friday, and from noon to 5 p.m. Saturdays.

A second reception will be held from 5-8 p.m. at Squirrel City Jewelers, which will present Strut, an exhibit featuring the work of Danny Likar.

Bent Tree Coffee will host a kid’s coloring contest from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. While supplies last, Kent Free Library will offer Take and Make Rainbow Crafts. Also available for children will be a Pride Children’s book display.

At the library

Rainbow Weekend will continue Saturday with three programs at the Kent Free Library:

Safe Space Ally Training is set for 10 a.m. to noon, How Faith Leaders Create LGBTQ+ Affirming Spaces will run from 12:30 to 1:45 p.m., and PFLAG Family Panel: My Kid Just Came Out, Now What? will be held from 2:15 to 3:30 p.m.

Registration for all three events is free. Preregistration is required, and attendance is limited to 50 people.

At the movies

Also on Saturday, Oct. 8, the documentary Mama Bears will be screened from 4:30 to 6 p.m. at First Energy Interactive Auditorium in KSU’s Franklin Hall.

The film follows two conservative Christian mothers whose love for their LGBTQ+ children has turned them into fierce advocates for the entire queer community. It also highlights a young African-American lesbian whose struggle for self-acceptance exemplifies why mama bears are so important.

Saturday’s entertainment includes Morgan Mecaskey and Jess Miller from 2-4 p.m. at Bell Tower Brewing, Courageously Queer Storytelling from 7-8 p.m. at North Water Brewing, Ladies Night Band from 7-10 p.m. at the Water Street Tavern, Comedy Show with Moop Troop from 8:30-10 p.m. at Bell Tower Brewing, and a Drag Show at 9 p.m. at the Zephyr Pub.

Saturday arts and activities can be found at venues across town:

Rainbow Ribbon Streamer Craft (while supplies last) at Red Letter Days, 3-6 p.m.

Rainbow Face Painting at Popped! 3-6 p.m.

DJ, Drag Queen Speed Tarot & More at Acorn Alley Courtyard, 3-6 p.m. (Note: this is the only event that will be canceled in the event of inclement weather.)

“Spread the Love” Interactive Art at Franklin Hall, 3:30-4:30 p.m.

Take & Make Rainbow Craft & Book Display at Kent Free Library, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Pride in Kent Exhibition at FJKluth Art Gallery, 12-5 p.m.

Rainbow Weekend Art Exhibit at Bell Tower Brewing, 12-11 p.m.

True Colors – a group show  at Troppus Projects, reception 5-7 p.m.

Strut – an exhibition featuring the work of Danny Likar at Squirrel City Jewelers, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Kids’ Coloring Contest at Bent Tree Coffee, 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Take & Make Rainbow Craft (while supplies last) and Pride children’s book display at Kent Free Library, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.

To register for any of the events, click the links above or visit Main Street Kent’s website at https://www.mainstreetkent.org/events/kent-rainbow-weekend/ and follow the links from there.

Rainbow Weekend is presented by Absolut, and is sponsored by PFLAG Kent, The Portager, College Town Kent, the Hall-Green Agency and Auto-Owners Insurance.

Correction: This article is updated to correct the pricing of the bar crawl and the Rainbow Run.

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Wendy DiAlesandro is a former Record Publishing Co. reporter and contributing writer for The Portager.