Section: Features

Students find community at First Friday in Mount Vernon 

Students find community at First Friday in Mount Vernon 

Students and Knox County Residents enjoyed the festivities | SACHA FRANJOLA

On Sept. 1, Kenyon students piled onto the Knox Area Transit (KAT) bus to Mount Vernon to experience a night of food, games and community involvement. Mount Vernon’s “First Friday” celebrations run from May to October, and provide a great opportunity for people interested in engaging with the community that surrounds Kenyon’s quaint campus. 

As Kenyon students walked onto Main Street from the Wright Center, the Mount Vernon Nazarene University softball team greeted them with a game of cornhole. Winners earned a free T-shirt, and even participants who scored zero out of three received a $2 Wendy’s coupon. Elsewhere, the Kenyon College Athletic Department offered free Kenyon men’s lacrosse jerseys to anyone who won their cornhole game.  

The street was jam-packed with booths advertising everything from local community service organizations, schools and churches to small arts and crafts businesses, roofing companies and clothing boutiques. 

Beyond and between the booths (almost all of which had some sort of free token: stickers, pens, pamphlets, small toys and silicone wristbands), entertainment abounded. On the left, a group of performers sang select songs from the musical Matilda. To the right, a crowd of attendees surrounded the South Main Plaza fountain, enjoying the live music.

While there were plenty of games and attractions for younger children, there were more still for curious college students: A chocolate-cake-eating contest was one of the many events advertised in an email to Kenyon’s student body. “It was super fun,” Sam Lawyer ’27, one of eight participants, said. “The cake was super delicious but I don’t think I enjoyed it as much as I could have, given the context.”

The Public Library of Mount Vernon’s table offered unique and colorful fabric bookmarks next to baskets of books in a variety of genres to be won in a raffle. Amber Hawkins, the Head of Outreach Services at the library, explained the department’s role. “We deliver [books, audiobooks, large print magazines] to people who can’t otherwise easily access library materials or access them at all,” Hawkins said. “So we deliver to senior citizens who are homebound, […] disabled people of all ages, people in nursing homes, institutions, Amish schools, preschools… we even deliver to jail.”

The Kokosing Valley Central Model Railroad Club was an especially intricate set-up, with a small model train going around a track that spanned two tables. The diorama was composed of uniquely designed pieces of wood with tracks on them and made to connect and disassemble for events like this. Rob Hilburn, vice president of the club, explained that the majority of their more complex and harder-to-disassemble layouts are found in the downstairs of the old CA&C Railroad Station. 

Since 2022, Mount Vernon has been an official affiliate of Bee City USA, whose table gave out free native flower seeds and information on bees in the area. As an affiliate, Mount Vernon has pollinator-friendly plants, signage around the city about the initiative and programming that “showcases the City’s commitment to raising awareness of pollinator conservation and expanding pollinator health and habitat,” according to a press release

With one more First Friday left on the calendar this year, Kenyon students have one more opportunity to experience the festivities for themselves.


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