As the 1926 Marcus Illions Carousel came to a stop that last time on Sept. 16, 2007, and the crowd shuffled out of the colorful front gate at Geauga Lake, little did they know that day would be the last for the park.

Just five days later, Cedar Fair announced that after more than a century of delighting young and old, the park was closed for good.

By the next spring, those rides that hadn’t already been dismantled and shipped off to other Cedar Fair parks, from Dorney Park to Michigan’s Great Adventure, were auctioned off.

The famed Double Loop was sold for scrap.

And the Skyrocket, later known as the Big Dipper, the biggest roller coaster in the world when it opened in 1925, met an unceremonious end just last year when it was torn down.

What little remains of the park — considered the largest in sheer size in the world after it was combined with the Sea World side of the lake in 2001 — is now hidden behind a privacy fence as Cedar Fair looks to find a buyer.

The abrupt closure, said Jason Hammond, president of the Great Ohio Coaster Club, and the fact the beloved John A. Miller-designed wooden coaster still stood long afterward made saying goodbye difficult for many.

“There are still a lot of people who are bitter out there,” he said.

The park that many generations of Northeast Ohioans grew up with had a complicated history toward the end.

Changing hands

After years of fairly steady ownership, the park found itself under the umbrella of ambitious Six Flags, which was in the midst of a coaster war with its competitors, including Cedar Fair.

In a game of one-upmanship, Six Flags added an unheard-of four roller coasters in just one season in 2000 to tweak Cedar Fair and its flagship Cedar Point in northwest Ohio.

The next summer brought Sea World’s departure, and a combined facility that really never found its identity as a theme park rather than a regional amusement park.

Economic misfortunes forced Six Flags to sell some of its properties, and the park that straddles Bainbridge Township in Geauga County and Aurora in Portage County found itself under the Cedar Fair brand just two months before the start of the 2004 season.

All the Six Flags themes, from Batman to Looney Tunes cartoons, were quickly stripped from Geauga Lake as Cedar Fair looked to restore it as a traditional amusement park. But Geauga Lake struggled to attract visitors even after converting the old Sea World into a water park.

Hammond said he understands the “econom­ics” behind the closure but it is still difficult to comprehend that the park he loved is gone.

“It was a great park for a lot of families for a lot of years,” he said. “It’s a shame. That was the park I went to growing up. We couldn’t afford Cedar Point.”

Deciding what’s next

Left to sort out what will become of the hundreds of acres left behind are public officials on both sides of the county line. Bainbridge was home to most of the footprint of the amusement park, while Aurora laid claim to the outer edge of Geauga Lake and Wildwater Kingdom on the old Sea World side.

Wildwater Kingdom closed last year, and that property also is up for sale with Cedar Fair looking for a developer.

Bainbridge Township trustee Jeffrey S. Markley said there have been plans for everything from a movie production facility to a Meijer store.

But so far, at least on the Bainbridge side, the only things the land has attracted are nuisance trespassers looking for relics of Geauga Lake or drone operators looking to capture the crumbling faux boulders of the Grizzly Run raft ride.

The property has been pretty much stripped of any resemblance to its former days, and one of the last recognizable monuments to its past, the Big Dipper, was toppled by workers last fall.

Markley said the township has tucked away in storage the coaster’s trains, one of the track switches and the giant wooden brake that park workers would pull on, with a hope they will be incorporated or put on display when the property is eventually reborn.

“Even after all these years, the park still has a beautiful quality about it,” he said. “You still have that beautiful view of the lake.”

The whole closing was particularly sad for Markley, as he worked there in his teen years as a ride operator on the Fly-O-Planes and the Double Loop.

“What killed Geauga Lake was it was no longer a weekend destination,” he said. “It was a good old-fashioned amusement park. It is sad. I’m very sad and disappointed.”

Bainbridge got pieces of the Big Dipper, and Aurora Mayor Ann Womer Benjamin said Cedar Fair let it take signs from the old water park before it — like Geauga Lake Park across the shore — was dismantled and shipped off to other parks or sold off piece by piece.

“We hope we are able to later incorporate some nostalgic elements in future developments,” she said.

Landmark plaque

Aurora plans to mark the 10th anniversary of the closure of Geauga Lake by dedicating an Ohio landmark plaque on the southern shore of the lake, by state Route 43 next to the old Geauga Lake Ballroom. The sign will be unveiled at 3 p.m. Sunday with a brief ceremony and a display of park memorabilia.

Benjamin said one side of the sign traces the amusement park’s history while the other marks the development of the Geauga Lake community of summer cottages and homes that sprouted up just outside the park.

Benjamin said now it is time to look ahead to the next chapter for Aurora’s portion of the land, which already includes a new Liberty car dealership, and what will become of the old Sea World property.

“We moved on a long time ago while still remembering fondly the park,” she said.

Craig Webb can be reached at [email protected] or 330-996-3547.

Like most amusement parks, Geauga Lake traced its history to a train stop and a place for city dwellers to escape to the country.

Soon picnic tables were added, along with boat rentals. Rides would come later, from a crude steam-powered carousel to a classic wooden roller coaster.

The park took shape in the 1920s and 1930s with the addition of a pool and a dance hall where the likes of Guy Lombardo kept the place jumping.

The modern-era amusement park was born with the addition of the steel Double Loop roller coaster in the late 1970s.

Through a series of different ownership groups, the park added more and more rides and attractions.

The departure of neighboring Sea World in 2001 brought a new park that stretched across both sides of the lake, encompassing some 700 acres and making it the largest theme park in the world by area.

And just six years later, it was closed.

Here’s a timeline of Geauga Lake’s history.

• 1887: The northeast side of Geauga Lake is first called Picnic Lake or Giles Pond, a place where visitors camped, went fishing or picnicked.

• 1888: Alexander G. Kent builds a 75-room luxury hotel called the Kent House.

• 1889: The park’s first ride is added, a steam-powered carousel.

• 1925: Geauga Lake’s first roller coaster is built, the iconic Big Dipper. At the time it was the largest wooden roller coaster built to date at 2,800 feet long and a height of 65 feet.

• 1927: The park adds an Olympic-size swimming pool and actor Johnny Weissmuller, of Tarzan fame, jumps in and breaks the world 220-yard freestyle record.

• 1931: The park adds a 1926 Marcus Illions Carousel with some 64 horses.

• 1939: A dance hall and ballroom are built.

• 1941: A severe storm sweeps through the park, injuring some guests, toppling trees and damaging part of the Big Dipper.

• 1952: A fire damages the bowling alley, theater, dance hall and roller rink.

• 1969: Funtime Inc. purchases the park.

• 1972: A new main gate is built, along with the addition of the Merry Oldies antique cars and the Gold Rush log ride.

• 1975: The park’s beloved Geauga Dog mascot greets guests for the first time.

• 1977: The Double Loop — Ohio’s first looping steel coaster — opens.

• 1978: The Corkscrew steel coaster debuts.

• 1984: The Wave, the first pool of its kind that creates 6-foot waves, opens.

• 1988: To celebrate its 100th year, the park welcomes the Raging Wolf Bobs wooden roller coaster.

• 1995: Geauga Lake is purchased by Premier Parks Inc.

• 1996: The park announces $9 million in improvements including the Mind Eraser roller coaster and the Grizzly Run whitewater raft ride.

• 1998: Premier Parks purchases Six Flags Theme Parks.

• 2000: Park changes name to Six Flags Ohio. Some $40 million in improvements include four new roller coasters including Superman Ultimate Escape, Batman Knight Flight, the Villain and the Roadrunner Express; a new water park area, Hurricane Harbor; and a new kids’ area called Looney Tunes Boomtown.

• 2001: Six Flags purchases SeaWorld Cleveland. The new combined park is called Six Flags Worlds of Adventure and becomes the largest amusement park in the world landwise. New additions include the X-Flight flying roller coaster and a floating boardwalk linking the old Sea World.

• 2002: Shouka replaces Shamu as the park’s killer whale. Some children’s rides are added to the old Sea World side.

• 2004: Six Flags sells the park to rival Cedar Fair, owner of Cedar Point. The name is changed back to Geauga Lake. All of the animals are removed from the Sea World side of the park. The superhero themes and names along with Looney Tunes characters are removed from all attractions within the park.

• 2005: Cedar Fair revamps the old Sea World into a water park called Wildwater Kingdom. Snoopy characters are introduced as mascots to the ride side of the park.

• 2007: Season opens with two coasters — the X-Flight and Steel Venom — removed and sent off to other Cedar Fair properties. The iconic monorail is also removed. The park opens later this year, on Memorial Day weekend. It closes for the season on Sept. 16, and five days later Cedar Fair announces the ride side of the lake is being shuttered.

• 2008: Remaining rides and equipment are auctioned off in June. A renamed Geauga Lake’s Wildwater Kingdom opens for the summer season.

• 2011: Geauga Lake is dropped from the name and the water park is simply called Wildwater Kingdom.

• 2016: Cedar Fair announces Aug. 19 that it will be the Wildwater Kingdom’s last season. Thousands show up for its final day, Sept. 5.

SOURCES: Aurora Historical Society and Akron Beacon Journal archives.

CLEVELAND: Here we go, Brownies … Here we go …


The chants were loud and proud as thousands of Browns fans — and what seemed to be an equal number of Steelers fans — filed into FirstEnergy Stadium on Sunday for the start of the NFL’s regular season.

Cleveland fans were optimistic after the Browns went 4-0 in the preseason.

Then came the first possession of the game. Led by rookie quarterback DeShone Kizer, the Browns went a quick three and out.

And then disaster.

The Steelers blocked Britton Colquitt’s punt and recovered it in the Browns’ end zone for a touchdown.

A sarcastic “Way to go, Brownies” broke out on the main concourse. It was met by a lackluster “woof, woof.”

“They scored already? Ai, yi, yi, yi,” said an exasperated Irene Lemponen of Maple Heights.

Her husband, John, just shook his head back and forth while resting his weight on his cane.

“We have to do a hell of a lot to turn things around,” he said.

The couple have been season ticket-holders since the Browns returned in 1999 and well before that in the Art Modell era.

John Lemponen, 88, said he can’t remember how long he’s had seats at the stadium but can remember the glory days in the 1950s when a young fellow by the name of Otto Graham was quarterback.

Whether Kizer can restore the luster to the Browns remains to be seen, but the team did end the game in a respectable, albeit 21-18 loss to the Steelers.

The game was close enough to keep most of the fans in their seats until the end. But after last year’s single-win season, said Irene Lemponen, 83, a loss is still a loss.

“It’s getting to the point that I’m ready to say enough is enough,” she said.

John, like most diehard Browns fans, said he will keep coming back for more.

“Hell, it was one and 15 last season so we have to be able to improve on that,” he said.

As with its improved play on the field, the team worked to mend fences with some fans critical of a preseason protest by some players who kneeled or stood off to the sidelines during the national anthem.

Browns players along with 20 police officers, 10 military service members, five firefighters and five EMTs collectively ran out of the tunnel just before the start of the game.

And when the national anthem was sung, players locked arms on the sidelines with the first responders and Browns owners Jimmy and Dee Haslam.

This was a peaceful end to a touchy situation that escalated to the point where Cleveland’s safety forces unions had asked its members to boycott participating in the opening ceremonies.

The two sides agreed to make peace in the days before the game.

Before the anthem, a video was played on the giant scoreboards where players talked about the need for unity at a time when it appears race still divides the nation.

Browns coach Hue Jackson said after the game that the show of unity in the pregame was “huge.”

“We are all in this together,” he said of finding ways to mend the racial divide.

Back on the concourse, the controversy stirred by the player protest at the preseason game against the New York Giants on Monday Night Football was lost among the friendly and not-so-friendly jabs exchanged between those wearing the orange and brown and the black and gold.

Browns fan Nathan Velican of Twinsburg said he figured the Browns would lose to the rival Steelers.

“I’ve got my fantasy team to think about,” he said with a laugh. “I didn’t want them to win this one — they can win when they meet again at the end of season.”

Craig Webb can be reached at [email protected] or 330-996-3547.

CLEVELAND: He officially became the Cleveland Diocese’s 11th bishop at 2:23 p.m.

But the Most Rev. Nelson Perez won the hearts of the 1,200 or so faithful gathered at Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist on Tuesday long before he took the crosier to shepherd Catholics in eight counties, including Summit.

He walked in with a broad smile and once on the altar he snuck friendly waves to those crowded in pews to his left and his right.

Perez’s impromptu waves set the tone for an installation Mass that was historic in many ways. He is the first Latino to lead the diocese and his proud Cuban roots were evident throughout the Mass that attracted some 30 bishops and cardinals from throughout the United States and a nationwide audience on two cable networks.

Pew after pew was filled with many of the diocese’s 258 priests and 203 deacons.

Cleveland Bishops emeriti Anthony Pilla and Richard Lennon, who stepped down last December for medical reasons, were also at the Mass.

Perez, 56, went off script and paused during his homily to “give a shout out” in Spanish to his parents who were watching on TV. This was not the only instance where Spanish was spoken during the Mass that lasted nearly two hours.

The Mass featured a Spanish choir — complete with mariachi band — from Sacred Heart Chapel in Lorain.

His 30-minute homily was reflective on his life, from being born in Miami to being ordained in Philadelphia to his last work as an auxiliary bishop in Rockville Center, N.Y.

As a son of immigrants, Perez asked for special prayers for the stress being suffered by those seeking new lives in America and the strain being caused by political pressure for more restrictive immigration policies.

He offered prayers for those seeking to rebuild their lives from the destruction left in the wake of Hurricane Harvey.

Perez also begged for forgiveness on behalf of all the bishops and the church for the “horrendous” child-abuse scandals of the past.

“I want to once again ask for forgiveness,” he said.

As for his plans for the diocese, Perez said, he has none. He explained that “this is not about me;” rather, it is about the faithful that number some 677,000 across Northeast Ohio.

“I want to be clear,” he said. “I have been sent here to be a part of you — not the other way around.”

He said this diocese has been around for 170 years and he’s pretty sure it will be around long after he has passed away.

“Fifty years from now, I will be just a picture on the wall,” Perez said.

All he asks, he said, is that the faithful join him on a journey of sharing the faith and continuing the charitable works throughout the diocese.

He ended his homily with a shout of “Cleveland Rocks” and “God is good.”

At which those gathered shouted back.

“All the time.”

Sonia Charles, the choir director at Sacred Heart Chapel, said this was her first trip to the cathedral — let alone performing inside of it.

She said it almost brought tears to her choir’s eyes when they learned last month Perez wanted them to be a part of his installation Mass.

“This is a tremendous honor,” she said.

Father Damian Ference, who teaches at Borromeo Seminary and is the former parochial vicar at St. Mary’s parish in Hudson, said he was particularly struck by Perez’s message that this is “not about him” but rather the other way around.

“I am filled with great hope,” Ference he said. “I like the bishop’s down to earthness. He seems to be a man who knows his people.”

Craig Webb can be reached at [email protected] or 330-996-3547.

The carousel goes round and round.

Time seems to slow and become a blur of images as a lifetime of memories pass by when you are on one.

Childhood memories of your first ride without mom or dad standing nearby to catch you should you fall. Memories of standing close, but not too close, ready to catch your own child.

No matter your age, it is hard not to feel like a kid again and get lost in time when the brass bell rings to start the ride and organ music of a bygone era fills the air.

Akron has long had a love affair with carousels, from the long-gone Philadelphia Toboggan Co. Carousel No. 15 that once called the old Summit Beach Park home, to a relatively new one at the Akron Zoo that is delighting a whole new generation.

We are fortunate to have four carousels within a short driving distance, from the Akron Zoo to the Cleveland Zoo to Memphis Kiddie Park and Euclid Beach Park.

And not too far to the south is the Carousel Works in Mansfield, where you can watch artists carve new carousels or restore old ones to their former glory. This is where both the carousels at the Akron and Cleveland zoos were born and the Euclid Beach Carousel was given new life.

Further west in Sandusky, where Cedar Point is home to three carousels, is a museum dedicated to the rides that were once a staple at tiny neighborhood amusement parks and county fairs. The museum, tucked inside a stately former post office in downtown Sandusky, is home to five carousel horses that have graced collectible U.S. postage stamps and even decorated the White House at Christmas.

The museum’s Bonnie Behm said that early carousels in this country had a military purpose. The Army used primitive horses on a spinning platform that turned to teach young recruits how to stay on a horse. And when the rides eventually made their way to county fairs, Behm said, the carnies would bring two.

One would feature horses that went round and round for the kids to ride on. Another, for the adults, would have a spinning platform with horses that went up and down.

As rides became more daring and the riders more brave, Behm said, the traditional carousel we see today was born that has a combination of horses that go up and down and some that are stationary.

Behm said a trick to know whether a horse will go up and down before you climb aboard and can see the inner mechanisms above is to look at the animal’s feet. If any part of a hoof is touching the ground, then you know it will not go up and down.

Another fun trick to pass the time while in line, she said, is to look for the carousel’s so-called lead horse.

Long before timers or automatic electronics, the ride operator would watch for the lead horse to pass to keep track of the number of revolutions and when it was time to pull the brake and to ring the bell to stop it and shoo riders off.

The lead horse is typically bigger than the rest or has some dramatic features like armor or special colors. At the Sandusky museum, the lead horse on its resident carousel is a so-called Stargazer horse that is looking up at the heavens. And unlike most carousels that spin at a leisurely 3 miles per hour, the Merry-Go-Round Museum’s ride platform spins at a brisk 9 mph.

Behm said she rarely encounters a grumpy visitor at the museum.

“This is happiness,” she said. “There’s happy music. This is something everyone enjoys. There’s never unhappy people.”

Akron Zoo

The effort to bring the Conservation Carousel to the Akron Zoo in 2010 was spurred by a community fund-raising project.

Each animal has a plaque by it noting who donated the money to buy each one. Built by the Carousel Works in Mansfield, the ride boasts a continental theme with some 33 animals calling it home. There are also several unusual animals found on the carousel, including a parrot, a baby moose and a wolf cub. A large map by the carousel shows where each of the animals can be found in the wild.

Year built: 2010

Manufacturer: The Carousel Works in Mansfield.

Number: 33 animals and one chariot.

Admission: Adult admission to the zoo (500 Edgewood Ave., Akron) is $12; $9 for kids. Carousel tickets are $2.

Fun fact: The animals found on the carousel represent seven continents, and all are considered endangered.

Cleveland Zoo

The Circle of Wildlife Carousel is the largest in Northeast Ohio. It boasts 64 different animals, including eight custom animals that don’t appear on any other carousel built by the Carousel Works. They include: an Anatolian shepherd, a lynx, an ocelot, a ring-tailed lemur, a loris, an emperor penguin, a cardinal tetra fish, and a fossa (a cat-like mammal).

Year built: 2014

Manufacturer: The Carousel Works in Mansfield.

Number: 64 animals and two chariots.

Admission: Adult admission to the zoo (3900 Wildlife Way, Cleveland) is $14.25; $10.25 for kids. Carousel tickets are $3.

Fun fact: The animals are grouped together based on their natural environment from the African grassland to a tropical forest to the tundra.

Euclid Beach Park

The Grand Carousel is the granddaddy of all the carousels in Northeast Ohio. It has been painstakingly restored to its original glory and has a permanent home in a glass-enclosed corner of the Western Reserve Historical Society’s Cleveland History Center.

Built in 1910, the carousel, with its hand-carved horses, delighted generations of Clevelanders until Euclid Beach closed in 1969. It was purchased by Palace Playland in Maine and remained there until that park closed in 1996.

Year built: 1910

Manufacturer: Philadelphia Toboggan Co.

Number: 58 horses and two chariots.

Admission: A carousel ride is included with admission to the Western Reserve Historical Society’s museum (10825 East Blvd., Cleveland). $10 for adults; $9 for seniors; $5 for children.

Fun fact: Be sure to look at the hand-painted lower panels on the inside of the carousel that recall bygone rides from the former amusement park.

Memphis Kiddie Park

This tiny amusement park — there are only 11 kiddie rides — is home to another notable “old-time” carousel. It is the smallest of the four carousels in Northeast Ohio, but is certainly near and dear to generations of riders.

The Allan Herschell-built carousel, from the 1950s, is the first ride visitors encounter when they walk into the park along Memphis Road — not far from the Cleveland Zoo.

What makes the ride special, along with all the pint-size rides, is the fact they all date back to when Memphis Kiddie Park opened in 1952.

The park is like walking back in time. The carousel was restored over the past season so its horses are sporting a fresh coat of paint.

Year built: 1952

Manufacturer: Allan Herschell

Number: 30 horses and two chariots.

Admission: It is free to walk around the park (10340 Memphis Ave., Cleveland). Each ride costs $2.40 each. Discounts available when buying larger quantities of tickets.

Fun fact: All the horses have names on them in honor of park employees or family members of the owners.

Craig Webb, who likes to ride on the outside of a carousel, can be reached at [email protected] or 330-996-3547.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about speed.

I had a lot of time to think while on the world’s slowest boat ride last week on a perch fishing charter with my son Ethan’s Boy Scout troop.

Alternating white and black smoke swirled from the back of the boat as its failing engines slowly sputtered their way back to the docks.

We made it back and the Lake Erie perch were safe to swim another day and paddle boarders were emboldened to take victory laps around our wake-less vessel.

The chill in the air means yet another summer has sped by as Labor Day weekend is already upon us.

The end of the traditional summer travel season also means the Cleveland National Air Show’s arrival, and speed machines of all sizes and types will be flying about Burke Lakefront Airport.

Through a bit of serendipity I will be going up with the Thunderbirds (weather and stomach permitting) as the team gets ready to thrill crowds here with some amazing maneuvers.

I was actually the alternate for the ride-along, but got the call last week to summon my courage and report to the tarmac for an Air Force doc to check my ticker to make sure it won’t beat out of my chest during the dips and turns over Lake Erie.

I should probably have the good doctor check my noggin, too, considering my willingness to go up in the first place. (If I survive, there will be an account of my crying in Saturday’s edition, or a short notice of my demise.)

I don’t consider myself much of a daredevil but it seems I have always found myself in precarious spots — like riding with the Thunderbirds — in my career. I guess it is no wonder that my personal favorite carousel is a bit of a nail-bitter too.

As I learned while researching this week’s Pulse article on area carousels to ride — most amble along at a relatively slow 3 miles per hour.

Like most parents, particularly once they out-numbered my wife, Jennifer, and I with the arrival of No. 3, then No. 4 and finally No. 5 — we always thought we were going to be those parents whose child was going to tumble off one.

Thankfully, by the time Luke arrived, the older ones were old enough to hold on for dear life on their own and able to remember to tuck their heads in and roll should the unthinkable happen.

My personal favorite carousel is Cedar Downs at Cedar Point.

Built in 1921 for Euclid Beach Park, the transplanted racing carousel — so named because not only do the horses move up and down, but they also move back and forth in a race — moves along at 14.5 miles per hour. Again that may not sound fast.

But once the old-time bugle sounds on the ride and a piped-in announcer starts calling out horse names as if this is a real race — all you can do is hold on and hope for the best.

That’s what I plan on doing at the air show, as I sit in the rear seat of the Thunderbirds’ F-16 Falcon as it streaks across the sky at some 700 mph.

Mind you that’s roughly the speed of sound — so you will likely see the jet before you hear the sound of my screams marking the end of summer, and me.

Craig Webb can be reached at 330-996-3547 or [email protected]

LeBron James’ retro shoes are coming home to Akron.

Nike’s reboot of the first game shoe LeBron James laced up for his NBA debut against the Sacramento Kings in 2003 will be available at Next in Akron’s Highland Square when they are released Saturday morning.

But don’t expect landing a pair of the elusive shoes will be a slam dunk.

Isaiah Hill of Next said all sneaker lovers who arrive before 10 a.m. at the store at 837 W. Market St. will receive a raffle ticket.

Numbers will be called one at a time and the winning ticket-holders will have a chance to select their size of the Nike Zoom Generation White Black QS that they want to purchase. The shoe retails for $175.

“We want to level the playing field so everyone has a chance to get a shoe,” he said.

Hill said he can’t disclose exactly how many pairs the store will have but said it will be “very” limited.

“These will be very hard to come by,” he said.

Nike has already said the number of shoes released will be limited as will the number of places they are sold.

Aside from Next in Akron, there are just two other places in Ohio where they will be sold — the Foot Locker stores in Strongsville and Easton Town Center in Columbus. The only other Foot Locker stores selected to sell the shoes are in New York.

These sneakers are a throwback to the ones James wore in his NBA debut 14 seasons ago against the Sacramento Kings.

The retro shoe has some new features, like sturdier white leather. The original back heel pattern that was modeled after his first car — the Hummer his mother, Gloria, gave him while he was still at St. Vincent-St. Mary High School in Akron — is now metallic red instead of chrome.

Like James’ previous shoe releases, Hill said, there is a lot of buzz about this one.

“Our phone has been ringing off the hook,” he said.

For more information about Saturday’s release, check out the Nike website at

Craig Webb can be reached at [email protected] or 330-996-3547.

The “chosen ones” will be available for a few lucky souls this weekend.

Nike is re-releasing — with some minor modifications — the very first game shoe LeBron James laced up for his NBA debut against the Sacramento Kings.

The Nike Zoom Generation White Black QS will be available online and at select retailers on Saturday.

But the retro shoes that were fit for a king will cost you a princely sum.

The shoes will retail for $175.

These sneakers will be slightly different from the ones James sported on the court some 14 seasons ago.

The original back heel pattern that was modeled after his first car — a controversial Hummer his mother, Gloria, gave him while he was still at St. Vincent/St. Mary High School in Akron — is metallic red instead of chrome.

The toebox also is made of a sturdier white leather.

Nike says the number of shoes in the initial release will be limited.

But Nike promises this reboot — like the original —will pack a punch.

“Designed specifically for the rim-rocking, go-hard-like-a-runaway-garbage-truck player the King epitomizes, this freshly-iconic profile kicked down the door as he ushered in the next generation,” the shoe company touts in its description of the shoe.

A check with Foot Locker shows the shoe will only be available on Saturday at five locations, including two in Ohio. The retailer’s stores at the Southpark Mall in Strongsville and Easton Town Center in Columbus will have them.

The other Foot Locker locations selling the shoes on Saturday all are in New York City.

The Next clothing and shoe store in Akron’s Highland Square will have the shoe available on Saturday.

For more information about Saturday’s release, check out the Nike website at

Craig Webb can be reached at [email protected] or 330-996-3547.

Akron’s most fashionable couple is sharing what may be one of the city’s favorite love stories.

Savannah and LeBron James are featured in the September issue of Vogue magazine where they share with writer Robert Sullivan their own backstory and a love for the city where they grew up and met.

The article traces the couple’s roots from the tree-lined street where Savannah was raised to the low-income public housing where LeBron spent his childhood.

Savannah jokes that LeBron “met” her — she did not meet him.

LeBron in the article recalls the night in 2002 they fell for each other, while he was a star basketball player at St. Vincent-St. Mary and she was a cheerleader at Akron’s Buchtel High School.

LeBron recalled she wore a “black-and-pink two-piece.”

He also told the writer that he made sure to get her home before her curfew.

The article highlights Savannah’s work to help Akron teenage girls navigate their way to graduation from helping them afford prom dresses to peer mentoring with her Women of Our Future initiative.

It also noted LeBron’s work with his namesake foundation that helps Akron school kids not only get good grades but remain on the path to a high school diploma and eventually a college degree from the University of Akron.

The couple talked about their philosophy on parenthood for their own children, daughter Zhuri and sons LeBron Jr. and Bryce Maximus.

There’s “no book that can tell you about parenthood,” LeBron told the magazine. “Even your mom, your dad, your grandparents — they can give you pointers, but you have to go along that path on your own because every kid is different; every situation is different.”

He explains that the NBA means he is away from home a lot.

“Me and my wife are different, but at the same time we’re the same,” he said. “I’m gone a lot, so she is the boss of the household; she’s the rule-setter. It’s hard for me to go on the road for two and half weeks and then come home and tell my kids, ‘Look, this is how it should be done’ when she’s been home every day.”

Savannah added she can’t have LeBron coming home and “throwing monkey wrenches in the operation.”

Vogue magazine contributed to this article. Craig Webb can be reached at [email protected].

LeBron James spoke out against President Donald Trump on Twitter and in person on Wednesday.

In a post that had been retweeted more than 60,000 times by Thursday morning, he wrote, “Hate has always existed in America. Yes we know that but Donald Trump just made it fashionable again! Statues has nothing to do with us now!”

He posted it three hours before his appearance before 7,000 Akron kids and their families at Cedar Point, an annual day of fun tied to the LeBron James Family Foundation I Promise effort.

He took the stage with famous friends including Usher, Jordin Sparks and teammate J.R. Smith, and told the crowd he was “proud” of all the kids in the program.

But the violent events in Charlottesville, Va., over the weekend were still weighing on his heart.

He said that “love is the only way” and that we have to get better as a society.

“It’s not about the guy that’s so-called president of the United States,” he said.



Wicked Twister.

With so many rides and an equal number of memories made on Tuesday, it was hard to pick a favorite for Britannia Tenorio and Kayla Leonhard, a pair of 13-year-old Jennings middle schoolers and participants in the LeBron James Family Foundation I Promise effort.

The reunion was held on a day where race and cultural differences continue to be debated nationally, with LeBron James even weighing in.

“Hate has always existed in America,” he tweeted three hours before a scheduled appearance before 7,000 Akron kids and their families at Cedar Point. “Yes we know that Donald Trump just made it fashionable again!”

James took the crowd on a figurative journey from Akron to Cedar Point.

Along the way, he picked up friends — from former University of Akron President Scott Scarborough, who promised the university will ensure the foundation kids will graduate from college, too, to Kristen Lemkau, chief marketing officer for JPMorgan Chase, who announced that a new app has been designed for the kids to help them with their schoolwork and that career counseling will be offered to parents.

The night had its stars, with Jordin Sparks riding along with James and Usher entertaining the crowd.

A shirtless J.R. Smith of the Cavs even jumped into the back seat of the car as it made its imaginary trip.

At the end, LeBron told the crowd that this is his favorite day of the year and he is “proud” of all the kids in the program.

But the violent events in Charlottesville, Va., over the weekend were still weighing on his heart.

He said that “love is the only way” and that we have to get better as a society.

“It’s not about the guy that’s so-called president of the United States,” he said.

One big family

The park was filled with powder-blue shirts worn by young and old with bold letters proclaiming “We are Family.”

This is the third year that the foundation has treated kids who are part of the I Promise program to a free day at the park as a reward for their hard work to stay in school and get good grades.

“Fun” and “cool” were the words Britannia and Kayla used to describe their experiences with the I Promise program.

Kayla said that aside from getting help raising her math scores, she is touched by the care the mentors and tutors take to create not only better students, but better people.

“This is a group of people who work to make us come together,” she explained. “And we have fun, too.”

It is a group effort that makes the annual family reunion possible, said foundation spokeswoman Stephanie Rosa.

Cedar Point provides the tickets, thanks to a five-year partnership forged after the park offered to name a roller coaster after James when he returned to play for the Cavaliers.

Goodyear provided the buses for the hundreds of families who needed a ride to the park from Akron.

And Chase Bank offered up volunteers and logistical help in coordinating what could be one of the biggest family reunions on the planet.

The reunion — now in its sixth year — also marks the start of a new class of third-graders who are selected to participate and are in need of some additional academic support. There are now 1,200 Akron school kids in the program, which promises a full scholarship to the University of Akron after high school graduation.

And this year’s class will be among the first to attend the proposed I Promise School — a new public school set to open in 2018 that will be part of the district’s STEM curriculum but work side by side with the foundation.

It was also a day for the foundation to look back at the past year and report its accomplishments to the community.

The annual report released Tuesday pointed out that the foundation and its 23 community partners, 330 high school ambassadors and advisory board members performed more than 15,000 hours in community outreach and academic interventions, from monthly student experience outings to Hometown Hall meetings with students in all 39 Akron Public schools.

The foundation handed out $16,000 in groceries to assist I Promise families, mailed more than 12,000 letters and made phone calls of encouragement to its students, and provided about 1,500 school uniforms and custom hoodies for its students to wear to school.

It also distributed 160 new team uniforms, gave out 800 tickets to Cleveland Cavaliers games to reward students and distributed 215 new bikes and helmets to incoming students.

All the foundation does for its students can be life-changing for families.

Tiffany Pierce said her daughter Princess is in her second year in the program.

And there are two things she knows for certain:

For one, Pierce said, her daughter went from a student at Portage Path in need of outside help in math to a student who no longer struggles in the subject.

And second, the Family Reunion is a special day for her family.

“We definitely would not be able to do this,” Pierce said. “We have seven kids, so we would not be able to afford to come here as a family.”

Craig Webb can be reached at [email protected] or 330-996-3547.

For roller coaster enthusiasts and lovers of amusement parks, Christmas falls in August.

Many parks like Cedar Point in Sandusky have circled Wednesday on their calendars as the day they will announce their new attractions — more specifically roller coasters — for 2018.

And the date of Aug. 16 is not so random.

It is National Roller Coaster Day, so some parks are celebrating the day by announcing new thrill machines designed to make us scream for more and offering exclusive ride times to coaster enthusiasts.

The history of just how Aug. 16 as National Roller Coaster Day came about is as murky as Cedar Point’s acknowledgment that work has been going for months to convert the old Mean Streak wooden roller coaster into a steel hybrid.

Legend has it that day can be traced back to 1898, when the first patent for a roller coaster ride was issued.

As for legends and back stories, Cedar Point is hinting that the Mean Streak’s revamp will keep in fitting with its location in the park’s FrontierTown.

Cedar Point has posted “wanted” posters around the old coaster for characters named Chess, Digger and Blackjack. They have also posted videos showing off the twisty, curvy new steel track, saying they “are coming.”

Cedar Point is remaining tight-lipped about what is happening to the Mean Streak (which closed last fall) until a high noon announcement is made Wednesday.

Workers from the Rocky Mountain Co. have spent months removing sections of the old coaster and adding new ones to what was a record breaker when it opened May 11, 1991, with the then-tallest lift and the longest drop on a wooden roller coaster.

Those records have long been eclipsed, but it appears the reincarnated ride will reach taller than the 161 feet of the old coaster — and riders will find themselves upside down at least three times thanks to the new, more versatile track design.

Robert Niles, editor of Theme Park Insider website, said Cedar Point’s announcement will not be the only one that day, with other parks including Silver Dollar City in Missouri also revealing new rides.

“Anything that Cedar Point does with a new or refurbished coaster automatically becomes one of the most anticipated coasters of the year — the park’s fan base is huge and intensely loyal,” he said.

Cedar Point’s announcements always create waves well beyond Lake Erie.

And this year is no different.

Tim Baldwin, who is communications director for the American Coaster Enthusiasts club, said Cedar Point has benefited in an odd way from park visitors and coaster lovers having a view of the ongoing work on the revamped coaster long before the announcement of its name and specifications.

“Bless their hearts; you really can’t keep something like that a secret,” he said.

This has given enthusiasts months to pore over pictures of the alterations to the Mean Streak’s towering mass of lumber and the stacks of new steel track scattered about.

And Baldwin, who makes the trek from his Texas home to Cedar Point at least once a season, likes what he has seen so far.

“My hunch is it going to be more than 200 feet tall,” he said. “Cedar Point loves to measure things in the hundreds.”

This year was marked by a number of roller coaster openings that were more modest in size — in the 100-foot range — and slower speeds.

Baldwin said Kings Island’s well-themed Mystic Timbers is a good example of a midsize coaster that opened this season.

“Good things can come in small packages,” he said.

He suspects 2018 will mark a return for many parks — including Cedar Point — to much larger, record-breaking scream machines.

“I think in my heart of hearts that people will say this is the best coaster in the park when it opens,” he said. “And this is a coaster that will be among giants.”

Jeff Putz, who runs the Cedar Point fan site, said coaster enthusiasts had a love-hate relationship with the Mean Streak.

“Mean Streak has caught the ire of coaster enthusiasts for many years because it was beautiful to look at, but really unpleasant and uninteresting to ride,” he said. “If I ask around in friend circles, they’ve never been fond of it either.”

Putz said Cedar Point, in collaboration with Rocky Mountain Construction, has the chance to make something pretty special from the guts of an existing wooden roller coaster into one that offers the stomach-turning crazy elements found on steel ones.

“As a fan, the idea of taking the worst coaster at the park and making it the best is pretty great,” he said. “After 19 years of watching new ride announcements and construction, the discussion has never been more intense.

“People don’t get tired of talking about it.”

Craig Webb can be reached at [email protected] or 330-996-3547.

LeBron James has put his size-15 footprint of approval on a new comedy being developed by his entertainment company for HBO.

James’ SpringHill Entertainment — named for the Akron apartment complex where the Cavaliers star grew up — has inked a deal with HBO to create a yet-to-be named, half-hour comedy based in a sneaker shop, according to multiple reports and confirmed by a source close to James.

The show will be set in Los Angeles and feature two best friends along with fellow employees in the store in the midst of the “insane” and “obsessive” sneaker culture.

James and fellow Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary alumnus Maverick Carter are executive producers of the show.

James knows a thing or two about sneakers, as his signature Nike basketball shoes are on their 14th incarnation. His latest lifetime endorsement deal with the shoemaker signed in late 2015 is reportedly worth a record $1 billion.

The show is also being produced by filmmaker Shawn Wines, who won a student Academy Award for the short film High Maintenance.

This is the latest in a series of off-the-court moves for James as he expands his business interests off the basketball court. His company is already producing a documentary for HBO that looks at the life of boxing legend Muhammad Ali. SpringHill is also producing a three-part look at the modern history of the NBA for Showtime that is expected to air sometime in 2018.

The game show The Wall currently airs at 9 p.m. Thursdays on NBC, and the comedy Survivor’s Remorse will return for its fourth season Aug. 20 on Starz.

Craig Webb can be reached at [email protected] or 330-996-3547.

Taking a stroll around the outdoor arena at the Wayne County Fairgrounds is like taking a step back in time.

But be sure to watch where you are walking, or you just might step in a big pile of reality or come face-to-face with a gun-toting cowboy.

The fairgrounds is home to the Northern Ohio Outlaws club. Its members dress up like cowboys and cowgirls from wide-brimmed hats right down to leather boots.

They ride majestic horses of all shapes and colors through an obstacle course and pull Colt 45 handguns from holsters to shoot blanks at balloon targets.

They meet up regularly and host five competitions each summer at the fairgrounds. The next one is Aug. 19 and 20, when they will host the Ohio State Shoot, open to like-minded competitors from throughout the Buckeye State.

The club’s president, Jace Mower — whose name sounds like it is straight out of the Wild West — said the Northeast Ohio group is the largest in the state at some 178 members.

“We are also one of the largest clubs in the country,” she said.

She credits this to the club’s friendly competitive spirit and how it works to foster new members through one-on-one training sessions.

“We’ve always had a good crowd,” she said. “This club is not out to beat one another. They are out to help you.”

Test of skills

The competition is scored on how fast the horse and its rider complete the obstacle course by weaving in and out of a series of barrels, and on the accuracy of shooting at and popping balloons. The score is time-based so seconds are added for a missed turn or missed shot.

Riders are ranked by experience and compete against similarly skilled shooters.

Mower, who lives in Wooster, has been around since the club formed more than 10 years ago, and not only helps get the matches organized but also competes.

“My horse is Booger,” she said with a laugh. “Her real name is High Society Pine. But everyone knows her as Booger.”

Riding and shooting at the same time is quite a challenge. And once you do it, said Tony Ruper, the club’s vice president, you are hooked.

Ruper said his first taste of the Old West came 12 years ago during a visit to a match in Georgia when a competitor offered to let him ride his horse and borrow his gun.

“It is an adrenaline rush,” said the Richfield Township resident. “But the nicest part is everyone is so friendly.”

He points out: Where else would someone let a perfect stranger borrow a horse and a gun?

Preparing the horse

Ruper now hits the trail and competes all around the country at Outlaw matches.

But it takes some work and a lot of practice to prepare yourself and your horse to make sure everything goes off without a hitch. His horse Sugar is a pro of the cowboy life now.

Ruper said the first challenge is getting the horse used to the loud pop of the gun and the sight of a floating balloon. Putting balloons in a horse’s stall is pretty simple; the gun is a whole other matter.

Shooting off fireworks is one solution, Ruper said, but he found a cheaper and more practical way is to use a loud nail gun to simulate the noise. New riders also can put earplugs in the horse’s ears or blinders over its eyes so it can’t see the gun.

Ruper said the horses adapt quickly to the sound of gunfire.

Sometimes the biggest hurdle to overcome is the ability of the rider to navigate and shoot at the same time. This is why the club, he said, starts slowly with new riders and trains them before they let them take off in the arena.

The club’s members are as young as 7 but they have to wait until they are 12 to actually fire a gun on the course. They start with wooden guns, then graduate to unloaded guns before they are allowed to use the real thing.

“We want the newcomers to have a good experience to hook them,” he said.

New life for wild horse

Adam Black was a newcomer at a recent gathering at the fairgrounds. The Zanesville horse trainer was curious about the life of an outlaw and how the horse under his care would react in the arena.

Dune was among a group of feral horses rounded up by the Heart of Phoenix Equine Rescue last year in and around a mine in Kentucky. Black said during the economic downturn a few years back, some horse owners simply let them run free instead of feeding and caring for them.

“I’m helping to make Dune a family horse,” he said. And running a course with a gun-toting rider on his back is a great test for the once-wild horse.

“We want to know that he’s bomb-proof,” he said. “He’s been there and done that.”

As much as friendships are forged through the matches among the riders, Mower said, the horses also learn to stand shoulder to shoulder.

“Everything is just about having fun.”

Craig Webb, who once had no control over a horse and a cart that wandered aimlessly around Mackinaw Island for the better part of an hour, can be reached at [email protected] or 330-996-3547.

Savannah James is promoting her love for Akron and raising money for her mentorship effort with Akron schoolgirls with a series of new Ohio-centric shirts.

James has teamed up with retailer Where I’m From to create three T-shirt designs ranging from ones that proclaim “Cle Proud” and “Ohio Proud” to another that features a large “330” over a map of Ohio.

The sale of the shirts, which cost $29.99 each, will directly benefit James’ Women of Our Future effort that offers one-on-one mentoring and academic support for female high school students.

“I really enjoyed being hands-on in the design process and getting to put my mark on this collection that represents who I am and where I come from,” she said in a prepared statement. “Most importantly, I’m proud that this collaboration with Where I’m From will benefit the young women I get to mentor and work with in Akron.”

The shirts are available on the company’s website and at a Where I’m From kiosk in Summit Mall in Fairlawn and Where I’m From stores in Belden Village Mall in Jackson Township and SouthPark Mall in Strongsville through Aug. 31.

The retailer is hosting so-called All Proceeds Days at its spots in Fairlawn and Strongsville where all purchases on specific days will support James’ initiative. The All Proceeds Day at Summit Mall is Saturday and Aug. 26 at SouthPark.

Ryan Napier, co-founder of the clothing company, said partnering with James and her mentoring program was a good fit as the retailer’s shirts promote local pride.

“We are incredibly excited to get the chance to support such a fabulous initiative which will leave invaluable impressions on deserving young ladies,” Napier said in a statement. “And getting the chance to work with a group of people as talented, genuine and caring as Savannah and her team has been truly empowering.”

Craig Webb can be reached at [email protected] or 330-996-3547.

I see this weekend they are re-enacting the Battle of Port Republic at Hale Farm’s annual Civil War Reenactment.

The fields in and around the cool historic village nestled in Cuyahoga Valley National Park will be filled with scores of re-enactors wearing either the blue or the gray uniforms of the North and the South.

We are fortunate to be home to what is billed as the largest such re-enactment in the state.

Once again, the fine folks at the Western Reserve Historical Society have passed on my standing offer to re-enact one of the lesser-known battles of the Civil War waged on a forgotten summer weekend in Gettysburg.

The little-known Battle of the Town and Country pitted a couple of weary generals against a rabble bunch of five young soldiers looking to rebel against authority.

It was a mutiny for the ages.

For the record, I have always been fascinated by the history of the Civil War. Along with my trusty sidekick in life, my wife Jennifer, who never met a historical plaque she could not stop to read very, very slowly, we thought a trip to the historic battlefield would be a perfect getaway for our then young family.

Let’s just say, the battlefield lived up to its name that day as skirmish after skirmish was engaged as we pulled up the family minivan to each and every monument we encountered in the Pennsylvania countryside.

The lures of the van’s AC and electronic devices were no match for any piece of obscure trivia we could muster like the fact that Abraham Lincoln may (may not) have had smallpox when he delivered his famous address there.

Years have passed, and just who won the Battle of the Town and Country remains in dispute among the veterans of the conflict.

What is not in dispute is the outcome of the Battle of Port Republic that will be re-created by some 700 re-enactors on Saturday and Sunday afternoon at Hale Farm in Bath.

The battle, fought on June 9, 1862, in Rockingham County, Va., is considered one of the most costly skirmishes that Confederate Maj. Gen. Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson suffered in his campaign through the Shenandoah Valley.

In between the smoke-filled battles, visitors can chat with the re-enactors and even visit primitive historically accurate campsites.

Lincoln also will be on hand to chat with and pose for a selfie, but you might want to keep a safe distance given the whole smallpox thing.

Admission is $10 for adults and $5 for kids, and two-day tickets are offered at a discount.

This is a good chance to visit Hale Farm and mix in a Civil War history lesson or two.

But a word of friendly advice from a grizzled Civil War veteran.

Stealthily park the car.

Quickly turn off the AC.

Promise the young recruits, a big bag of kettle popcorn, a Civil War souvenir and an ice cold soda.

Perhaps you, too, will have a wealth of cherished family memories to retell for years to come.

Craig Webb can be reached at 330-996-3547 or [email protected]

Blues & Brews

The 13th annual Blues & Brews — the biggest and longest-running beer festival in Akron — returns Saturday. Presented by Thirsty Dog Brewing Co. and the Winking Lizard Tavern, the sudsy event runs from noon to 5 p.m. at Lock 3 in downtown Akron. More than 200 craft beers from more than 70 breweries will be available. Tickets range from $10-$90. More details:

MST3K Live

If you love the cult comedy TV show, you can check out the live stage version. The Mystery Science Theater 3000 Live: Watch Out For Snakes! tour lands at the Ohio Theater (1515 Euclid Ave.) in Cleveland’s Playhouse Square at 8 p.m. on Tuesday. The night will include a cheesy B-movie, wisecracking robots, silly sketches, audience participation and Eegah. Tickets are $39 and up. More info:

Rob a bank in style

Thursday night’s free [email protected] features the bank heist comedy Going in Style, starring Morgan Freeman, Michael Caine and Alan Arkin. 6:30 p.m. at the Akron-Summit County Public Library, 60 S. High St. More info:

In like flint

On Saturday at Wood Hollow Metro Park, Paul Wischt from the Cuyahoga and Chippewa Valley archaeology societies, will demonstrate the ancient skill of flint knapping and share the different spear points used by early Native Americans. 1-2:30 p.m. 2121 Barlow Road, Hudson. More info: 330-865-8065

Dragon hunting

Hike Bluebird Trail with a naturalist and look for dragonflies as they cruise over the meadow, and learn the differences between species, growth cycles and color patterns. The Dragons of Liberty Park event is from 2-3:30 p.m. Sunday at the Liberty Park Nature Center, 9999 Liberty Road, Twinsburg. More info: 330-865-8065.

Pulling trucks, riding bulls

There’s still plenty to do at the Medina County Fair, which is celebrating its 172nd year and runs though Sunday. Grandstand events include a demolition derby on Friday and a tractor-truck pull on Saturday. There will be Buckin’ Ohio Bullriding on Sunday (with a farewell fireworks show at 10 p.m.). 720 W. Smith Road, Medina. For ticket information and a complete schedule:

— Craig Webb

It takes a lot of preparation and packing for a Cleveland Orchestra concert at Blossom.

A bottle of merlot.

Some crackers.

And a wheel of brie.

Yet well beyond the picnickers in the lawn, there are months of planning and fretting behind the scenes to make sure the world-class orchestra hits all the right notes at its summer home.

In fact, once the last note of the outdoor season echoes through the Cuyahoga Valley, preparations begin anew for the next one.

And it is not as simple as throwing the instruments in a van and making the trek from the historic Severance Hall to the venue in Cuyahoga Falls.

It takes months of work, ranging from transporting bulky instruments like a tympani to one as delicate as a harp, to making arrangements for giant screens able to project movies like this season’s E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial.

Other considerations play a role, like music selections that call for unusual instruments, or amplification to ensure sound can carry to the far reaches of the lawn and the vocalists can be heard over the brass section.

It all adds up to a lot of planning by folks like Christine Honolke, the orchestra’s operations associate manager.

Amplified sound

The work begins in earnest when there’s still snow on the ground.

Unlike the acoustically perfect Severance Hall, Honolke said, for Blossom they have to use microphones to ensure no one in the audience misses a single note.

“Since the lawn is such an integral part of the Blossom experience, we make sure the lawn is covered with amplification,” she said.

About six months out, Honolke said, the staff begins reviewing each scheduled performance and the pieces selected, from classical compositions to Broadway to a film score, to ensure everything that needs to be moved or set up is accounted for.

If, for example, the chorus is involved, then special risers and microphones have to be added to the list.

“Each piece the orchestra performs is so individual,” she explained.

It usually takes one truck to move the large instruments and library case full of the music that will be performed over the typical two nights of performances each weekend.

The truck moves out on Friday for a Saturday and Sunday slate, and makes the trek back north right after the stage hands pack everything back up and the librarian present at each performance collects and accounts for each piece of music.

While Blossom is considered an outdoor venue, Honolke said, the shell where the orchestra performs and some patrons sit under cover in comfy seats does keep the instruments and musicians fairly sheltered from the wide range of temperatures and humidity.

It helps that the stage has hidden vents that pump out cool air. “We want our musicians to be as comfortable as possible so they can focus on the music,” she said.

Honolke said she’s been around for the better part of five years helping to coordinate the Blossom season, and can remember only one instance when a storm propelled rain into the first row or two of where the orchestra sits on the stage.

“They are fairly well protected,” she said. “We religiously watch the weather.”

The keys to tuning

One of the trickier instruments to move and ensure is in tune at Blossom is the harpsichord. Honolke said the instrument is “extremely fragile” and can take as long as 90 minutes to tune.

Another sensitive instrument is the Steinway grand piano.

Early arrivers at a Blossom concert can sit and listen to a piano tuner spend as long as an hour plinking on each key to ensure it is properly tuned.

And this will be the second time in a few hours that the piano is tuned before a performance.

Joela Jones, the orchestra’s principal keyboardist, said the Steinway Model D Concert Grand piano that measures some 8 feet and 11¾ inches in length is the only instrument that spends its summer at Blossom.

It is kept locked in a cage in a room tucked away from the stage, to ensure a wayward rocker performing at the venue doesn’t bang out a rousing rendition of Bohemian Rhapsody.

Back when Blossom was built in the late 1960s as the orchestra’s summer home, Jones said, the decision was made to not transport a piano from Severance Hall.

For many years, the grand piano was rented from a man from New York who would deliver the instrument annually and personally tune it before each performance. In recent years, the orchestra has rented the grand piano from Steinway and has a private tuner perform the task.

Jones personally traveled this year to the Steinway factory in Long Island to pick the one that is now used at Blossom.

When she arrived, Jones said, there were seven lined up on the concrete factory floor for her to choose from.

She sat and played a bit on each, looking for just the right one that would not only be pleasing to a variety of different pianists — herself included — but could also “cut” through the humidity of a warm summer night at Blossom.

The piano has to have just the right feel to perform a diverse range of music, from Gershwin to Mozart to a John Williams film score.

“These are very different concepts in the sound you want from the piano,” she said. “You want something that will make everyone who plays it happy.

“It has to be a very diverse piano.”

To seal the deal, Jones said, she asked Steinway to share the history of the piano she had selected. The company maintains detailed records of where a particular piano has been and who has played it.

Jones said she learned the Blossom piano was once used by Yefim Bronfman, a renowned Russian-born classical pianist.

“I knew we were in great company,” she said.

Multiple tunings

Since the piano is kept at Blossom for the summer, she said, it is tuned around mid-afternoon the day of each performance before the rehearsal.

It is tuned a second time before the concert, Jones said, not so much because of the humidity but rather that it is not uncommon for a piano to be out of tune after a rigorous performance.

Jones said it is great to perform at Blossom with the large enthusiastic crowd and the natural surroundings, but it can be a bit unsettling for first-time guest musicians.

Aside from the sun glare during rehearsals, Jones said, there always seems to be a big audience of birds.

“They all seem to want to congregate in the pavilion,” she said. “They all seem to like to chirp and sing along during the rehearsal.”

Thankfully the feathery crowd clears out by the evening performance, Jones said, only to be replaced by the night owls and another flying lover of music.

“We’ve even had bats on stage during performances,” she said. “It can be a bit unsettling. They come flying down over our heads.”

Craig Webb, whose clarinet was never in tune, can be reached at [email protected] or 330-996-3547.

Ryan Corbett admits he can be a bit of a scaredy-cat when it comes to rides.

But the Akron resident summoned the strength Thursday to join his daredevil wife, Erin, and sons Austin and Trevor in line to take on the classic Scrambler at the Summit County Fair.

So when the ride let out a loud thump when the door of an unoccupied car unexpectedly rattled shut, it gave Corbett a bit of a pause.

But it was comforting, he said, to see workers inspecting rides when his family arrived at the fair around 9 a.m.

As news spread Wednesday of a tragic mishap on the Fire Ball ride at the Ohio State Fair in Columbus that left one man dead and another seven injured, Summit County Fair Board Director Angela Hawsman said the board quickly convened a late-night meeting to go over safety procedures and ongoing inspections for the 15 rides set up at the fairgrounds in Tallmadge.

“We have done some extra inspections,” she said.

The attractions from Bates Amusement now set up at the Summit County Fair — they will also be at subsequent fairs in Medina and Wayne counties — are examined by state ride inspectors from the Ohio Department of Agriculture before they ever begin the summer festival circuit.

Kim Bates-Bozich, of Bates Amusement, said each ride is dissembled over the winter months and completely refurbished and checked for any wear or structural issues.

In addition to the state inspection, they are also pored over by the company’s in-house inspectors to ensure they meet and in some cases exceed the manufacturer’s specifications.

They are checked over again by company inspectors at various stages during setup at fairs and carnivals, Bates-Bozich said, in addition to state inspectors who make unannounced visits.

And then each morning and periodically throughout the day, she said, the rides are inspected again to ensure they are working properly.

The time it takes to inspect and check out a ride varies depending on its complexity.

The kiddie rides are fairly simple.

But so-called “spectacular” rides — the Summit County Fair has just one — that are considered by the industry a larger-scale attraction like many of those found at the state fair can take a bit longer.

The big ride at the Summit Fair this year is called the Super Shot and it takes seated riders straight up in the air where they are suspended for a moment before the attraction drops them toward the ground below.

The county fair does not have a ride similar to the one that apparently malfunctioned at the Ohio State Fair.

The ride that came apart at the state fair was operated by Amusements of America, a New Jersey-based operator that makes the circuit of larger festivals and state fairs.

The Fire Ball’s manufacturer, Dutch-based KMG, has ordered a global shutdown Thursday of all 43 thrill rides like the one at the Ohio State Fair until it can be determined what caused a set of seats to detach from a swinging arm and hit the ride’s platform.

All the rides at the Ohio State Fair were ordered shut down Wednesday night by Ohio Gov. John Kasich.

The Ohio Highway Patrol says Tyler Jarrell, 18, of Columbus, was killed and seven others — all from the Columbus area — ranging in age from 14 to 42 suffered varying injuries and were hospitalized. Three of the injured were critically hurt.

Jarrell, who the Marine Corps says had just enlisted on Friday, was thrown 50 feet from the ride.

Mark Bruce, communications director for the department of agriculture, said inspectors are working around the clock to investigate the accident and reinspect all the rides at the fair before they will reopen to the public.

The Ohio Department of Agriculture acknowledged the Fire Ball that features a large arm that swings its seated passengers 40 feet high in the air while spinning them at 13 revolutions per minute had passed its final inspection just hours before the fair’s first day on Wednesday and the subsequent accident later that same evening.

“Amusement ride safety inspection is one of the most important duties at the Ohio Department of Agriculture,” he said in a statement. “The safety of guests and visitors to Ohio’s amusement parks, fairs and rides is the department’s top priority.”

The department inspects some 4,000 rides annually statewide including at permanent parks like Cedar Point.

Safety of the guests at the Summit County Fair, Bates-Bozich said, is also the No. 1 priority for the ride company that is marking its 50th and last season of operating rides in Northeast Ohio.

Bates-Bozich notes this is Bates Amusement’s 24th season at the Summit County Fair and one that has been free of accidents.

She credits a stringent state inspection program that keeps ride operators on their toes and the company’s own inspectors who will not hesitate to shut down a ride at a moment’s notice if something appears to be amiss.

“Ohio is a role model for the country,” she said. “If you look at all the millions who ride our rides in this state annually, we should take pride in our safety record.”

Aside from the inspections, Bates-Bozich said she along with the company’s workers regularly walk the midway and look and listen for anything that doesn’t seem right.

“The crowd noise you can tune out,” she said. “But if something sounds out of the ordinary we notice it.”

Fairgoer Samantha Kennel said she left it up to her kids Cameron, 12, Hannah, 14, and Justin, 17, to decide whether they wanted to go on the rides at the Summit Fair after the tragedy in Columbus.

Kennel said she is confident in the state inspections and the ride workers to keep her children out of harm’s way.

She said there are inherent dangers in everything from riding in a car or taking a cruise like the Tallmadge family plans to take later this summer.

“It’s tragic, but I’m not going to not go on a cruise just because the Titanic sank.”

Craig Webb can be reached at [email protected] or 330-996-3547.

INSIDE: Kids get a thrill out of the ‘fair’ side of policing at Carnival With a Cop. Community, B1

You love your peaches.

And almonds and red raspberries, chocolate, grapes, bananas and even peanut butter.

These were among the top suggestions our online followers suggested when we asked for the ingredients that “must” be mixed in with ice cream.

We offered up these possible ingredients along with other less popular ones, like old-school bourbon, strawberries, graham crackers and even crumbled bacon to the folks at Chill Ice Cream to pick from as they tinkered to create a limited-edition flavor for the Beacon Journal.

They ultimately picked bourbon because of the rich tradition of a bottle of booze in the desk drawer of gruff old newspaper editors.

Rest assured, we just keep bottles of water, and a bottle of aspirin, in our desks these days.

Also mixed in will be peaches in the aptly named “Inside Scoop” flavor that will be available while supplies last at Chill in Akron.

Zach Jaworski, who runs the Akron location on Maiden Lane, said they try to partner with community organizations to dream up new flavors. Past flavors have come from students at Our Lady of the Elms and Akron Children’s Hospital, where patients have come up with cool limited-edition flavors.

“We do a lot of unique flavors,” he said.

Craig Webb can be reached at [email protected] or 330-996-3547.