Stark residents enjoy Summerbration event in Market Square
Ohio CAN is a four-year-old organization based in North Canton that seeks to combat drug and alcohol addiction. It’s organized several events to raise the awareness of the perils of substance abuse. But they tended to attract mainly people who worked for nonprofits battling the drug epidemic or people already in recovery from their addiction. So the organization decided to go outside the box and put on a fun family event called Summerbration to attract people and their children to come into contact with them.
CANTON Thousands of parents and children from different areas of Stark County attended the inaugural Summerbration on Saturday afternoon in Market Square. The event, a family activities festival, was organized by a broad coalition of local nonprofit organizations.
Taking place from noon to 5 p.m., the event featured a 25-foot climbing wall for children with harnesses, the opportunity to shovel large amounts of dirt with a Beaver Excavating excavator, a wet Slip n Slide, numerous inflatable bouncy areas such a Candyland castle and a 60-foot-tall pirate ship with slide. By 3 p.m., dozens of children were jumping up and down in the bouncy play areas while their parents sought to keep their eye on them. Kids also could play video games in the mobile videogame truck, browse books in a Stark Districty Library bookmobile and toss balls in an attempt to dunk North Canton Jaycees and yStark! volunteer Mike Sturdivant.
The festivities also included a live rap performance by the artist Prodigal Son, also known as Kelly Williams, and dance performances by local dancers of companies such as the Candy Apple Dance Center.
Food and drink vendors with North Canton Jaycees volunteers sold bottles of water.
Amidst the fun stuff were booths and tables promoting the missions of those nonprofit groups such as the Salvation Army; SAFY or Specialized Alternatives for Families and Youth, which seeks to recruit people to become foster parents; Families Against the Heroin Epidemic Rally in Stark and Al-Anon and Alateen. The organization Be a Better Me Foundation, which seeks to find mentors for school children, set up a dunking booth and received the proceeds from attempts, said North Canton Jaycees president Stephanie Sweany.
The Stark County sheriff’s office and Canton Police also had tables, and ArtsinStark set up an arts area.
The North Canton Jaycees and Ystark! of the Canton Regional Chamber of Commerce provided many volunteers to staff the event.
It was a couple of leaders for the four-year-old group OhioCAN or formerly Ohio Change Addiction Now, which is based in North Canton, who were among those who came up with the idea for the event.
Cindy Koumoutzis, the group’s Ohio executive director of, and Ron Stromsky, the organization’s Stark County coordinator, started planning Summerbration about two and a half months ago.
Koumoutzis said her group had organized several events to raise awareness. The problem was that they mainly tended to attract others who worked for similar anti-drug addiction organizations, as well as addicts in recovery who are well aware of the resources available. They weren’t attracting people still struggling with their own drug use, or family members who were reluctant to seek help.
Koumoutzis said she felt that her group needed to offer a fun event to lighten the mood for many in the community who might associate an anti-drug addiction group with something that was serious and somber.
“We wanted to have a fun day centered around the fun side of recovery,” said Stromsky.
OhioCan contacted several Stark County nonprofits and government organizations, with the goal of putting Summerbration together as a fun family event to attract people, especially families, from all walks of life, and subtly offer them the chance to learn about the groups’ missions and what they had to offer.
The groups all put in effort promoting the event online and in person. Volunteers handed out fliers in apartment complexes to neighbors. The Stark County District library promoted the event in its branches. The Stark Area Regional Transit Authority offered free rides to the event.
Parents eager to find an affordable fun event for their bored children home for the summer encountered posts on Facebook and other social media about Summerbration and flocked to downtown Canton.
When the inaugural event started at noon Saturday, thousands of people and many children, organizers estimate about 5,000, showed up. The significantly lower humidity also didn’t hurt.
“It’s unbelievable,” said Koumoutzis, who added the event will take place next year. “Better than I ever imagined. You always wonder will they come and all of a sudden they came and they keep coming.”
Many of the activities were free or required one $5 wristband.
Just about everything seemed to go without a hitch. The Salvation Army’s wet Slip n Slide had to be turned off for a while to give time for the ground underneath to dry. A volunteer grabbed a dog that had gotten loose and briefly got into a confrontation with another dog and turned the dog over to police who brought the canine to the Stark County Dog Pound.
Yuhang Liu, of Jackson Township, said she heard about the event at a branch of the Stark County District Library. So she brought her 6-year-old daughter Emily, who was eager to get a $5 wristband so she could play in the bouncy areas.
“I think she has fun here,” Liu said.
Eliza Taylor, 3, of Jackson Township, excitedly pulled at her mother’s arm so she could get to one of the play areas.
“I think it’s great. We’re having a good time,” said Maggie Taylor, who saw a post about the event on Facebook. “Once she saw (the play area), it was all over.”
Tanisha Body of Canton brought her three children, ages 8, 5 and 3. She heard about the event from a flier that someone was distributing in her Canton apartment complex.
“Something for kids to do,” Body said. “It’s pretty cool. ... I didn’t know what to expect.”
John Owen came all the way from Akron to the event with his grandson, who played in the video game trailer, and granddaughter, who frolicked on the Slip N Slide.
“Community getting together is a good thing,” he said.
Published: Monday, July 9, 2018