Mount Vernon hosted its final First Friday event of the year on Sept. 2, with people of all ages taking part in the festivities. Children got to play cornhole and order rolled ice cream, while families enjoyed the concert in the town square and enjoyed food served by local vendors. The event included musical performances from the youth cast of Shrek The Musical and a local group, Jersey the Band. The mood was refreshing, a final celebration of the summer before the school year.
Experience Mount Vernon, an organization dedicated to fostering a vibrant downtown community, piloted First Fridays in 2002, and, except for the past two years due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the program has occurred annually ever since. This year, First Fridays served as an opportunity for Kenyon and Knox County residents to emerge from the pandemic together.
In this spirit, volunteers also participate in organizing the event and ensuring that it runs smoothly. People are able to join committees to help plan different themes and activities. This month’s event had many volunteers who helped run and organize the kiosks for Kenyon, Central Ohio Technical College, the Knox County Career Center and Mount Vernon Nazarene University. Experience Mount Vernon gets in touch with various restaurants and people who would like to get involved. “We want to make sure that we have the opportunity to kind of promote some of the things that we are very proud of what we’ve been able to accomplish over the last few years,” Mr. McNeal said.
Kenyon’s Assistant Director of Community Partnerships Alyssa Gómez Lawrence ’10 believes that it is the stellar community involvement that makes this event a success. Both Gómez Lawrence and Anthony McNeal, downtown manager at Experience Mount Vernon, stressed the importance of constructing this community gathering. “When those hundreds of people are walking up and down Main Street and enjoying the music … [they are] just building that community and making a positive atmosphere for downtown,” McNeal said.
There are a number of upcoming events and activities that also aim to bring the Kenyon community and Knox County residents together, such as The People’s Bank of Gambier’s second Annual Johnny Appleseed Apple Fest on Oct. 7. In addition, Kenyon students can go see a blown glass art gallery, go ax throwing or walk around the welcoming town square throughout the year.
Gómez Lawrence was pleased with the involvement of the Kenyon community in local events. “One of the many ideas [at the Office of Community Partnerships] is for Kenyon to have a seat at the table. Not running the show, just being present. This is just a fine example of being at the table and becoming more and more a part of that community.”