The task seemed simple enough.

Attach a grain of rice-sized microchip to the legs of the birds who call the Akron Zoo’s aviary exhibit home.

The birds already have metal bands that help identify them from one another should one fly the coop.

So the zookeepers set out to try a variety of glues to attach the microchips to the existing band so they can, among other things, help monitor the birds’ activities and simplify morning roll call.

But no matter how sticky the material, the chips simply fell off.

So they looked at using other bands on the market and creating their own out of different materials, but they were either too big or too small or too loose.

Dr. Kim Cook, the zoo’s director of Animal Health and Conservation, said that out of an act of frustration and a dash of desperation with a touch of inspiration they decided to look into whether they could build a better band themselves.

The zoo invested a couple hundred bucks to purchase a 3-D printer to create bands with a nifty slot to keep the microchips safe and sound.

The zoo has been quietly testing out the in-house-created bands on birds in its quarantine area tucked inside its animal hospital, where a collection of birds are awaiting their introduction into the aviary exhibit.

The results so far are great, Cook said, with the exception of two malcontents.

It seems the towhee and the red-winged blackbirds have figured out the plastic bands are no match for their powerful beaks.

“They are just stronger and bigger,” she said.

The answer, she said, is a bit like Jaws, where they simply needed a bigger band.

And since the 3-D printer can create anything you ask it to do, zookeepers will simply tweak the thickness of the bands that start out at a 0.1 millimeter thickness to accommodate the more powerful birds than, say, the ruby-crowned kinglet or the white-throated sparrow.

The plan is to slowly put microchips on all the American native songbirds that call the zoo home and use the technology at first to take attendance.

“It is really difficult for the keepers to count them every morning and say with certainty they are all still there,” she said.

They also plan to use different colors for the microchip bands unique to each variety, so it will be easy to identify the species just by looking at their legs.

More important, Cook said, they can use the data collected from the microchips through a series of receivers in the enclosure to eventually monitor everything from the birds’ eating habits to how often they visit their nests to what types of seed they prefer by which feeder they eat from.

“Our creativity is the only thing that limits us,” she said.

The data collected could prove valuable in helping to ensure the survival of native bird species in Ohio.

The staff is already dreaming up other uses for the printer that can create just about everything from models of skulls for educational purposes to plastic rods for animals that might break a leg.

One area that is particularly troublesome is masks for anesthesia for animals that need surgery.

There are only a limited number of sizes on the market so the zoo has had to be creative in the past, including repurposing an old bleach bottle.

The problem, Cook explained, is the animals have a variety of head and nose shapes.

With a 3-D printer, she said, the zoo can easily make a mask that is as unique as the patient requiring it.

“We’re coming up with all sorts of interesting things.”

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

LeBron James is still just that kid from Akron.

But a new comedy series from his online entertainment arm Uninterrupted tells the fictional story of that “other” kid from the Rubber City.

The Crossover: The Story of Laurence Moses Bryant tells the tale — documentary style — of how the NBA wannabe claims he once crossed over LeBron during a pickup game in an Akron city park.

A film crew follows Larry, played by New Girl actor Lamorne Morris, around town as he brags about the fateful day some 20 years ago when he quickly switched dribbling the ball from one hand to the other and tripped up then-teenage LeBron when he changed direction.

The only problem is no one else in town seems to remember it that way.

The first episode went live Monday afternoon with plans to record future episodes in Akron and elsewhere.

Larry is shown in a city park missing shot after shot and being pushed off the court by others who are actually playing a game.

About the only shots he actually makes is when he’s throwing bags into the back of the garbage truck as he makes his rounds collecting rubbish, waiting for the call to join LeBron in the NBA.

He claims that on the day of his signature crossover move, even former Akron Mayor Don Plusquellic, whose last name he horribly mispronounces, was there to witness it.

He talks about how in a pick and roll, LeBron ended up defending him.

“It was a mismatch,” Larry says. “It was the mouse in the house. The Indians in the Cupboard.”

Even the grandmother he lives with, surrounded by his collection of participation trophies from his youth including Akron CYO, is dubious of her grandson’s claims. She admits they ran out of trophies one year so she paid to have one made for “being good.”

The mockumentary features cameos by Maverick Carter, LeBron’s business partner and classmate at Akron’s St. Vincent/St. Mary, and former Beacon Journal sportswriter and current ESPN NBA analyst Brian Windhorst, who both cast doubt on Larry’s claims.

“If he crossed LeBron, trust me, he would have been legend in Akron,” Windhorst tells the camera.

Morris’ character pays homage to Akron, where he claims to be Patient Zero and talks about never seeing a need to leave the city limits, except for one trip to the airport to corner Stan Van Gundy to sign a pair of Nike LeBron basketball shoes that sit on display on a dresser in his bedroom.

In the end of the eight-minute show, Larry invites LeBron over to his grandmother’s house but he tells the superstar not to use the doorbell because it is broken and ignore the “beware of dog” sign because the dog died.

“Haters gonna hate,” Larry says. “You always have to stay motivated. At the end of the day, man crossed LeBron James. Ain’t no one gonna take that away from me.”

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

There’s a movement afoot — in this case a size 15 — to honor Akron’s most famous son.

A GoFundMe account has been set up with a goal to raise $1 million to put up a life-size statue in Akron of LeBron James.

The man behind the grassroots campaign is fellow St. Vincent/St. Mary alumnus and state championship high school basketball player Aaron Carey, who roamed the halls six years after LeBron made his way to the NBA and the Cavs.

Carey admits a million bucks may seem like a kingly sum, but it takes a lot to put up a statue for someone of James’ stature.

But realizing there’s just one shot at getting this right, Carey, who now lives in Columbus where he runs a nonprofit that assists young fashion designers, has reached out to sculptor Omri Amrany to design it.

The artist has created other statues for NBA players including Michael Jordan, Shaquille O’Neal, Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul Jabbar.

The bronze statue, if built, would depict James in the midst of one of his signature dunks.

What makes this statue different, Carey said, is that it would be put up while he is still playing — hopefully still in a Cavs uniform — unlike the other Amrany creations that were installed after the star players retired.

The GoFundMe page — dubbed “LeBron James Statue to Akron” — sprang up quietly a week or so ago.

And that’s no accident.

“We want to do this with the fans,” he said. “We want fans to be able to thank LeBron for what he has done for Akron and the Cavs.”

Looking to create a grassroots buzz initially with small donations, Carey said a marketing campaign is coming within weeks to kickstart the fundraising effort and approach donors with deeper pockets.

The first 15 donors of $30,000 or more would receive a limited edition miniature replica of the statue, signed by the artist. Another five miniature signed replicas would be auctioned in the latter stages of the campaign. The remaining five statues would remain in the possession of the artist.

Carey said he hasn’t reached out to James just yet about his plan.

Aside from sharing a bond of having been coached by Dru Joyce, Carey said, he had an older brother who played AAU basketball with James and remembers him visiting the family home and sharing a bowl of cereal before games and practices.

“We don’t want to be a distraction,” he said. “We want this to grow organically at first then hopefully meet with his team after the playoffs are over.”

Money aside, Carey admits there’s still a lot to be done, including the not-so-small decision of where the statue should go. Right now there are several locations being considered.

The first and most logical, Carey said, would be outside his high school on North Maple Street. The preliminary artist’s rendering pays homage to the school and James’ time there before heading straight to the pros.

It depicts a young James wearing the first incarnation of his signature Nikes and his No. 23 high school jersey.

“We really want this to be in Akron,” he said. “We talked to (Cavs owner) Dan Gilbert and he wants to put one up in Akron after LeBron retires.”

Other sites under consideration are in downtown Akron by the street that bears his name, King James Way; outside James’ I Promise School on West Market Street; or somewhere on the University of Akron campus.

James’ camp did not respond to a request for comment on the campaign.

James has accomplished a lot in his storied NBA career, but Carey said it is fitting that the statue that he expects would become a popular tourist stop remembers that kid from Akron.

“This is a young LeBron,” he said. “I think this will resonate with the city. This is the LeBron we all knew as he came up through the ranks.”

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

She once had two showrooms, a factory in Egypt and large warehouses.

Now all she has to ply her wares is her living room and rented storage space in an old retail building on Akron’s Romig Road.

But that hasn’t deterred Rosemary Hamed from reinventing herself long after she readily admits many would have simply retired.

The high-end oriental rug stores in Shaker Heights and Bath Township are gone, but the longtime Akron businesswoman laughs that is what most still remember her for.

But her passion now is furniture.

When she shuttered the last of her namesake R.A. Hamed stores in the early 2000s, the goal was to focus on her then-burgeoning designer furniture line, built in a factory she owned in Egypt.

She began dabbling in furniture after a trip to Egypt in the 1990s to look for designs and ideas for rugs. Strolling through the narrow streets in Cairo and Alexandria, she was struck by the number of furniture makers building right out in the open air.

With the help of an Egyptian business associate, Hamed started her own line and opened up a factory there, where custom pieces were made by hand and sold directly to interior designers and high-end furniture stores.

Things went swimmingly until the Great Recession hit in 2008.

She said it was like someone flipped a switch and there simply were no orders coming in. Bills mounted as the furniture sat unsold in warehouses.

Hamed had to walk away from the factory and its equipment, move leftover furniture around to different warehouse spaces to save cash, and sell what she could stave off bankruptcy, including her stately house on Akron’s Merriman Road.

“I did not go into bankruptcy and that was important to me,” she said.

Fine rugs and art

Hamed now calls a modest but handsomely appointed duplex in Northwest Akron home. Inside, mixed among fine rugs and pieces of art collected over years of travel, are some artworks that are closer to her heart.

She has collected the works of Akron’s Don Drumm since his humble beginnings in a garage.

And while she is still occasionally selling off some furniture from the earlier venture to make ends meet, she’s hoping to launch a new line that incorporates Drumm’s aluminum artwork.

Most of the Drumm designs, which are inlaid in everything from desks to dining tables to coffee tables to jewelry armoires, are pieces readily available for sale at his Akron studio. But some — like custom furniture legs — the artist has created just for Hamed.

She approached Drumm with the idea of creating furniture and he was agreeable, under one condition: “He only asked that I didn’t ask him to design any of the furniture,” she said.

That was fine with Hamed, who uses everything from yellow Post-It notes to cardboard cutouts to create mockups in her home, turning over her ideas to a master furniture builder in the Youngstown area to create a finished sample.

This is not Drumm’s first venture outside the comfy confines of his quirky studio and gallery in a series of houses on Crouse Street in Akron. He partnered with Billow Funeral Home to create custom cremation urns after his customers were using his casserole dishes as a final resting place for loved ones (read about those at https://bit.ly/2KDx1xU).

Drumm said he dabbled in the furniture business in the 1970s in a venture called Galleries 10. But he and a partner found it all exhausting, coming up with ever-growing demands for new designs of steel tables and aluminum accessories such as candlesticks.

“We spent all of our time designing,” he said. “We were very naive. We were pushed to design all of the time. We were just spinning our wheels.”

So after three years, Drumm left the furniture business and set out to forge his own path creating whimsical aluminum designs of sunflowers and suns and the like.

He said some of the old metal furniture pieces pop up every now and then for sale on the internet, and it seems they are particularly collectible in France.

A new line

When longtime friend Hamed floated the idea of incorporating his artwork into a new line of furniture, Drumm said he was willing, as long as he provided just the artistic accents.

“She is very creative not only in sales but also design,” he said.

So far, there are 25 different pieces that have been constructed that are now being considered for sale through Hamed’s Scott Thomas Furniture line — named after one of her sons and the name of her last venture.

“Hamed is a good name for a rug company but not furniture,” she explained.

There are no prices set yet, as she works through the production costs for everything from the Drumm art to the materials to the workmanship to put it all together. Then there’s the matter of distribution and other not-so-fun ancillary costs, like paying herself a salary.

Hamed said she’s learned from her last venture into furniture manufacturing that started with ambitious dreams and ended with financial losses and empty buildings.

“There’s still a lot I have to do,” she said. “I’m trying to do the work of five people.”

The goal is to keep the price tags in and around the $1,000 range — what she thinks is a bargain, considering it is custom furniture incorporating the work of a great artist.

“Where can you buy furniture that is collectible?” she asked. “I’m going to be selling furniture as a collectible. I don’t know anyone else who is doing this.”

The public can get its first glimpse of the furniture at a two-weekend showing next Friday and Saturday and June 1 and 2 at Summit Artspace in Akron. Hamed said she also plans to enter some of the pieces in a national furniture-design competition.

“[Dale] Chihuly is the guru of glass,” she said. “Don Drumm is the guru of metal art. No one … can compete with Don Drumm.”

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

City Barbeque has opened its first Northeast Ohio eatery right under our noses in Fairlawn. And you catch a whiff of the hickory-smoked meats once you step out of the family SUV. Not sure what to order? They offer a Judge’s Sampler for $28.99. The menu says it feeds two, but it was more than enough to feed my family of four with a ¼ chicken, a half slab of ribs, pulled pork, beef brisket, two sides, two cornbreads and Texas toast. Everything was yummy with or without extra BBQ sauce, and the green beans with bacon and onion were to die for (and you might just do that if you ate them every day).

— Craig Webb

The Place: City Barbeque

Where: 2870 West Market St., Fairlawn

Why you should go: Great barbeque and sides but be sure to save room for the banana pudding at $2.79

More info: citybbq.com

There’s a lot to celebrate.

And I’m not just talking about the fact it is no longer snowing.

We love our fairs and festivals and the coming summer months are full of reasons to get outside and eat a corn dog or two. Or three.

The unofficial start of summer is Memorial Day, but we are already getting into a festive mood in Northeast Ohio.

This weekend has two big events.

One is on a statewide level. And another is a big party locally.

After a year of renovation work, the Perry’s Victory and International Peace Memorial in Put-in-Bay will once again open to tourists on Saturday and there are a lot of activities planned there to mark the occasion.

The memorial is a Doric column — the largest such column in the world — that rises some 352 feet over Lake Erie to honor those who fought in the Battle of Lake Erie during the War of 1812.

Workers have spent months re-tucking each and every one of the granite blocks that comprise the column that stands 47 feet taller than the Statue of Liberty.

The elevator — it costs $7 to ride — will reopen to the public on Saturday to reach the observation deck that is 12 feet higher than the statue of Liberty’s torch.

It is named after Oliver Hazard Perry for his naval victory in the war.

Buried under its stone floor are three American officers and three British officers who died in the naval battles.

Park Superintendent Barbara Fearon said in keeping with the National Park’s mission as a Peace Memorial, it will play host to the free Put-in-Bay Music Festival on June 9.

Music, she said, unifies people and it’s fitting that the park will host the festival that attracts tens of thousands with a common love of music from bluegrass to zydeco to folk to rhythm and blues.

“This is never more relevant than it is today,” Fearon said of the political divisiveness in the nation.

A common love of flowering trees and concession stand food will unite folks in Barberton this weekend.

The city’s Cherry Blossom Festival kicks off around Lake Anna Friday night and continues through Sunday with activities, music and lots of fried food.

The parade is at 10 a.m. Saturday.

This is just the beginning of a busy festival season in the area.

Looking ahead, notable dates to mark on your calendar include the county fairs.

The Summit County Fair runs July 24 to 29 with the demolition derby on Wednesday night and the Rough Truck competition on Sunday.

The 173rd Medina County Fair will be July 30 to Aug. 5.

The headliner on Aug. 2 is Kane Brown. Tickets are $30 and go on sale at 9 a.m. this Saturday at the fair office window, 720 W. Smith Road, or online at medina-fair.com. Phone sales at 330-723-9633 start at 10 a.m.

The Wayne County Fair, which bills itself as Ohio’s Foremost Agricultural Fair, runs Sept. 8 to 13.

It has a full lineup of national acts this year with Sara Evans on Sept. 9, Trace Adkins on Sept. 10 and Larry the Cable Guy on Sept. 11. Tickets for the grandstand shows will go on sale July 2.

The 160th Portage County Randolph Fair will be Aug. 21-26. It will have back-to-back demolition derby nights Aug. 21 and 22.

Other notable festivals and events this summer include:

May

• May 19 — Craft and Herb Festival in Wadsworth

• May 24 — Vintage Canton in downtown with live music, art exhibits and wine.

• May 26 — Spring Grove Civil War Encampment at 115 North Spring Grove St. in Medina.

• May 26 — Reggae Fest Cleveland in the Twinsburg Perici Amphitheatre.

• May 26-27 — Fairy Days at the Farm! at Heritage Farms, 6050 Riverview Road, in Peninsula.

June

• June 1 and 2 — WQKT & Daily Record Music & Ribfest in Wooster

• June 2 — All The Square’s A Stage in Highland Square with live theater performances.

• June 2 — Art and Wine Festival in downtown Kent.

• June 3 — Bath Art Festival in the Bath Community Park on North Cleveland-Massillon Road.

• June 8 to 10 — Riverfront Irish Festival in downtown Cuyahoga Falls.

• June16 — Bauman Orchards Strawberry Festival in Rittman.

• June 17 — Father’s Day Car Show at Stan Hywet Hall.

• June 19-23 — Blue Tip Festival in Wadsworth.

• June 22-23 — Freedom Fest in Green’s Boettler Park at 5300 Massillon Road.

• June 22-24 — Sarah’s Vineyard Summer Solstice Festival in Cuyahoga Falls.

• June 22-24 — Rock the Dock around Springfield Lake.

• June 29 to July 4 — Rib, White and Blue festival in downtown Akron.

• June 30 to July 1 — Boston Mills Artfest Show I in Boston Township.

July

• July 5-8 — Boston Mills Artfest Show II in Boston Township.

• July 12 to 14 — Olde Canal Days Festival in Canal Fulton.

• July 12 to 14 — Summit County Italian-American Festival in downtown Akron.

• July 13 — Kent Blues Fest in downtown Kent.

• July 14 — Portage Lake’s Kiwanis Pirate Days Festival in Portage Lakes.

• July 14-15 — Music in the Valley Folk & Wine Festival in Bath Township.

• July 19 to 21 — Lodi Sweet Corn Festival.

• July 20-22 — Festa Italiana in downtown Cuyahoga Falls.

• July 20-22 — JamGrass Arts and Music Festival in Medina.

• July 20-22 — Akron African American Festival.

• July 26 — Taste of Akron.

• July 26-28 — Rittman Sleepwalker Festival.

July 27-29 — Pro Football Hall of Fame Enshrinement Festival in Canton.

August

• Aug. 3-4 — Rogues Hollow Festival in Doylestown.

• Aug. 3-5 — Twins Day Festival in Twinsburg.

• Aug. 10-11 — Festa Italiana in Wooster.

• Aug. 11 — Signal Tree Fest in Akron.

• Aug. 11-12 — Hale Farm Civil War Reenactment.

• Aug. 12 — An Affair on the Square Craft Fest in Medina.

• Aug. 17-18 — Taste of Ireland Fest in Akron.

• Aug. 18 — PorchRokr Festival in Akron’s Highland Square neighborhood.

• Aug. 18 — art-A-palooza in Green.

• Aug. 19 — Valley City Frog Jump Festival.

• Aug. 25 — Akron Pride Festival in Akron’s Hardesty Park.

• Aug. 25 — Rubber City Jazz and Blues Festival at Lock 3 in Akron.

• Aug. 25-26 — Art on the Green in Hudson.

• Aug. 31 to Sept. 2 – Made in Ohio Arts and Crafts Festival at Hale Farm.

September

• Sept. 1-2 — Summer Sunset Blast in Stow.

• Sept. 2-3 — Taste of Hudson.

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

University of Akron student has a million reasons to smile.

Make that 1.5 million reasons to be exact.

A week ago, Maxx Davidson competed for his dream job and won the title of Master Model Builder of LEGOLAND Discovery Center Columbus.

Now the self-professed “Lego geek” has unlimited access to over a million bricks in every shape and size and color imaginable.

It also means this fourth-year senior at UA will be putting his life science education studies on hold while he helps get the tourist attraction, in Easton on the outskirts of Columbus, ready for visitors for its fall opening.

“Before this I was going to be a super senior,” Davidson said.

He will be helping to create some of the life-size models that are a signature at Lego attractions, and when it opens he will interact with young builders visiting the place.

“I am a Master Builder which I believe is one of the coolest job titles ever,” he said.

The journey to this point was a long one in a fairly short time.

It started with his first Duplo set, when his family moved from Wooster to Ashland when he was a toddler.

His first real Lego memory was building the Millennium Falcon from Star Wars all by himself when he was just 4 years old.

And with that he was hooked.

Every birthday meant a new set, each more difficult as time passed.

“I’ve had a passion for it my entire life,” he said.

Before long he was tossing the instructions aside.

“Most of the time I take the sets apart to make my own creations,” he said.

On a whim he entered his name in the contest to choose the Master Builder for Merlin Entertainment’s new attraction in Columbus.

Jenna Maffei said the number of applicants started around 2,000 for the full-time job before being narrowed to 100 to compete head to head.

The first round last weekend had the builders constructing something animal-related using just 14 styles of block. Davidson built an aquarium with colorful fish.

The field was trimmed to 20 for the second round that had a Mother’s Day theme.

This time, Davidson created a relief portrait of his mother, Kim, the family’s white mutt, Mia, and a portly cat, Serenity.

The third and final round of just 10 consisted of each contestant having to work with kids to build something that expresses who they are. Davidson said he picked a music theme, and he and the kids created a giant turntable complete with a moving needle, records and headphones.

“The best part was working with the kids,” he said.

Maffei said Davidson, 22, will have the run of the two-story Discovery Center that will have rides, places to build things and even a 4-D theater once it opens.

“He is definitely one of the youngest Master Builders,” she said.

Davidson will be charged with overseeing the building of the center’s displays that will feature notable Ohioans and buildings.

The toughest thing, he said, he has ever built so far was last summer when he spent 50 hours creating a scale model of his family’s home, down to the tiniest detail like a part of the sidewalk that is heaved by a tree root.

“That was the most time-consuming and intricate build I have ever done.”

Craig Webb, who seems to always lose a piece or two before completing a Lego set, can be reached at [email protected] or 330-996-3547.

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This weekend some feathers will be ruffled at Akron’s Canal Park.

The RubberDucks are playing host to a four-game homestand against the Erie SeaWolves starting Thursday.

And with the start of a new season of summer fun, there’s a lot to see and do at the ol’ ballpark.

New safety nets

The first big change visitors will notice is an extension of the safety netting.

But old habits of keeping one eye on the nachos and another on a foul ball will probably take a few games to break.

The safety netting now stretches to the far end of both dugouts.

Don’t worry, the Field Green Ultra Cross Knotless Dyneema Ball Safety System Net — phew that’s a mouthful — is designed to have a “minimal impact on the fan-viewing experience,” thanks to a thinner material, a green color and a knotless construction.

The new netting cost around $50,000 and was paid for by the city, which owns the park.

There has been a move in recent years to expand and improve the netting at professional ballparks to ensure the safety from screaming foul balls into the stands.

Extreme food

Sure there’s nothing like a hot dog and a cold beer at the ballpark, but what’s the fun in that?

Minor league baseball is known for its extreme food items and the RubberDucks are serving up some major-league calorie-busters this season.

And there’s no better vantage point to hoist a drink and a fork than the tables by the bar in the outfield.

For some of the new extreme sandwiches, you might need a forklift.

The La Montagna — that’s “the mountain” in Italian — is a double-decker sandwich with a pound of salami, pepperoni, two Italian sausages, melted provolone cheese, roasted red peppers and homemade balsamic onion relish on three pieces of garlic bread.

The $12 sandwich is available at the Godfather’s Kitchen stand at Canal Park.

There’s also the “Thanks, Joe!” sandwich, honoring former Browns tackle Joe Thomas, that consists of two butterfly-sliced bratwursts covered in craft beer cheese, onions and peppers on a hoagie bun. It costs $10 at the Dog Pound.

There’s also a new stand at the ballpark.

The Sir Loin’s Steak Shoppe is on the concourse behind home plate and features a traditional cheesesteak — shaved ribeye, peppers and onions, sharp cheddar sauce and a chili-molasses sauce.

It also offers a chicken Philly sandwich of fire-braised chicken, peppers and onions and mozzarella-provolone blend. The sandwiches are $9.

The ballpark’s Game Grill + Bar at Canal Park has shaken up its lineup this season. There’s a Pierogies & Pot Roast offering at $11, a breaded Buffalo cheddar cauliflower for $8 and a veggie burger featuring a Beyond Meat patty for $10.

You can also purchase a souvenir soda Duck Mug for $12.50. Refills are $1 for the rest of the season.

Entertainment

Every night is promotion night at Canal Park. And this weekend series is no different.

There will be a Vegan Iron Chef competition during Thursday’s 6:35 p.m. game. They will also celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Will Ferrell movie Step Brothers with Catalina Wine Mixer.

It is also Thirsty Thursday with $1 Yuengling Lager drafts and fountain drinks.

Friday night is Dave Appreciation Night featuring David Mihocka.

Never heard of David Mihocka? Me neither.

Turns out the Akron resident won a contest in November as part of the team’s 20 Days of Giving promotion and was awarded his own namesake promo night.

In keeping with the night’s theme, the 6:35 p.m. game will end with fireworks synced to Dave Navarro music.

The RubberDucks players will be wearing special electric blue jerseys for the game.

The next morning, Saturday, is the team’s RubberDucks 5K Race where runners and walkers take to the streets downtown at 9 a.m.

Saturday night’s 6:35 p.m. game will feature a fun and unique giveaway for the first 1,000 fans.

It is Take a Redneck Home With You — Bowling Pin Giveaway night. The giveaway is a nod to the city’s distinction of being where the Professional Bowlers Association started.

The last out will be marked with fireworks set to the music of Steve Winwood.

Sunday is Mother’s Day and the team promotion is Mom Genes & Jeans. The game is set to start at 2:05 p.m.

It is also Family FUNday, where you can play catch on the field before the game and get player autographs. Hot dogs are just $2.

After the game, kids can run the bases.

The players

Sometimes lost amid the promotions and off-the-field shenanigans is the game itself.

This is the place where the future Francisco Lindors and Mike Clevingers and Bradley Zimmers hone their craft before moving up to play for the Cleveland Indians.

Before the start of the season, Akron’s AA team had six of the Top 30 Cleveland Indians prospects on its roster, as ranked by MLB.com.

The challenge with rooting for a certain player in Akron is they may be here today, and tomorrow they are called up to the big leagues or shuffled to another farm team.

The top prospect for the RubberDucks, and ranked the No. 3 prospect for the Indians, is Bobby Bradley.

The hard-hitting first baseman has racked up some 90 home runs in just over five seasons in the minors.

Ranked at No. 5 is RubberDucks shortstop Willi Castro, and rounding out the Top 10 is Ducks pitcher Aaron Civale.

But then again, it’s kind of hard to compete with the Hoola Hoop competition being waged on the concourse, or the human-size, dancing, inflatable Homer the Pigeon mascot doing the Hokey Pokey in Section 11.

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

It was a great day to be a Cleveland sports fan.

The Cavaliers tipped off at 1 p.m. Sunday in a deciding Game 7 against the Indiana Pacers.

Just a long Kevin Love inbounds pass away across the plaza, the first-place Indians stepped onto the field 15 minutes later to face the Seattle Mariners.

Things worked out better for the Cavs as they staved off elimination to move on to the second round of the NBA playoffs.

The Indians, on the other hand, lost their second consecutive game.

But many of the Tribe fans will take the loss as long as the Cavs remain in the hunt for another championship.

Kyle White of Lakewood sat along the first-base line in a custom-made LeBron James No. 23 baseball jersey.

He had one eye fixed on the grassy field and the other on his phone playing the Cavs game live.

“Obviously, the game across the way has more on the line,” he said.

The only thing that would have made the day even more epic would be a winning Browns game at the same time at FirstEnergy Stadium.

“The city might blow up on that one,” White said.

Like she did Friday night, Robin Krienke, who wore an Indians sweatshirt and a Cavs scarf, had a plan to cheer on both teams.

She and the fellow Indians fans in her group watched the first few innings and then headed to a sports bar on the upper level to watch the Cavs.

“We root them both on,” the Parma resident said. “It’s all about the mutual team spirit.”

Back at the Quicken Loans Arena, most fans were pretty much oblivious to the baseball game across the way as the Cavs and Pacers traded elbows and leads.

And for most fans, it was not only about a season-saving win but the prospect that a loss could mean LeBron James’ last game in a Cavaliers uniform.

Sunday also was the last day Alyssa Allsop would be 23 years old.

The Findlay resident made a special sign that said “LeBron, It’s my last day being 23 but it better not be yours.”

“This can’t be his last game as a Cav,” she said.

The sentiment was shared by a young Cavs fan from Columbus.

Sarena Bapna, 5, carried a sign on the concourse that read “Its my first game. Please don’t make it your last game as a Cav, LBJ!!”

Her Cavs fan mom Anitha grew up in Cleveland before moving to central Ohio.

“We are huge LeBron fans,” she said. “We live and breathe LeBron.”

Craig Webb, who should have worn a coat when hoofing it back and forth between the arena and the ballpark, can be reached at [email protected] or 330-996-3547.

The inaugural rides on Cedar Point’s new record-breaking roller coaster has raised a nice chunk of change for the LeBron James Family Foundation.

Some $53,225 was raised for the foundation that works to create change in Akron by keeping youngsters in the classroom and on a path to a college education at the University of Akron.

The park sold special $75 tickets — with tickets to be on the first train cars to leave the station fetching $250 — for Friday night’s event to be among the first to ride the record-breaking Steel Vengeance.

James even broke his usual playoff-run social media silence to mark the occasion that saw 36 ninth-graders from his Foundation making the trip from Akron to Sandusky to be a part of the event.

“It’s big. It’s nasty. Its vengeful,” James said in a video the Foundation tweeted out. “Cedar Point’s new roller coaster Steel Vengeance.”

The new coaster has risen from the timbers of the old Mean Streak wooden roller coaster and has shattered a fist full of world records.

Thanks to a new steel track, the coaster is able to go upside down and sideways and even sets a record for the most out-of-your-seat airtime.

The foundation and the amusement park have been partners for several years, starting when Cedar Point General Manager Jason McClure tweeted an offer to name a coaster after James should he return to play for the wine and gold when he left the Miami Heat.

Instead of naming a coaster, the park has donated money raised on first rides on new attractions from roller coasters to water slides.

The park also plays host each summer to the foundation’s Family Reunion where some Akron kids in his program and their families enjoy a day of fun at Cedar Point.

Last summer, James put on a special one-night show at the park for the kids that also starred teammate J.R. Smith and singers Jordin Sparks and Usher.

With the Cavs facing possible elimination in Game 7 of the opening round of the playoffs Sunday night against the Indiana Pacers, this could be James’ last game in a Cavs uniform should he choose to take his talents elsewhere.

McClure said the park is well aware of that possibility but remains committed to partnering with James and the work of the foundation.

So far, he said, there are no plans to once again offer to name something after the NBA All-Star to keep him in a Cavs uniform.

Cedar Point opens its gates to the public on May 5 to kick off its 149th season.

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

LeBron James.

Larry Nance Jr.

And now Denzel Ward joins the ranks of homegrown athletes to play professionally in Northeast Ohio.

As the No. 4 pick by the Browns in the first round of the NFL Draft on Thursday night, the Ohio State cornerback and former Nordonia High School star is now firmly ensconced in local sports lore.

Among his family and friends gathered at the draft in Arlington, Texas, was his high school football coach Jeff Fox who rubbed shoulders with another of Ward’s coaches, Urban Meyer of Ohio State.

Looking back on the moment that the cornerback turned pro, all Fox could muster on Friday was a lot of this is so “cool” and an “incredible” moment for a great young man and his family back home in Summit County.

A lot has changed since Fox took over the program for the 2012 season and met the perhaps then-undersized 140-pound player in his sophomore year.

Ward went on to help Nordonia reach the playoffs in each of his final three seasons, culminating with a record of 14-1 and a state runner-up finish his senior year.

Ward’s current 5-foot-10 and 183-pound frame and his prowess on the field as a Buckeye may have caught the Browns’ eye, but it is his character and poise off the field that make him a true standout, Fox said.

“The Browns are getting a fantastic kid who will be a real competitor,” he said.

The poise Ward showed when his father, Paul, died of cardiac arrest in a spin class on May 2, 2016, at the age of 46, is one such example.

Ward became just the second Nordonia Knights player to be drafted in the NFL.

In 2006, the Seattle Sea­hawks selected offensive lineman Rob Sims — also a fellow Buckeye — in the fourth round.

Linebacker Jason Trusnik, who played 10 seasons in the NFL including one with the Browns, offensive lineman Kevin Kowal­ski, who played two seasons and cornerback Jordan Mabin, who was on practice squads, are Nordonia graduates who went undrafted but had NFL careers.

Fox said that it was fun to watch his family’s reaction when the Browns made the pick and hearing one family member comment that he “won’t have to find a new church.”

Students at Nordonia High School on Friday were greeted by posters on the walls cheering on their alumnus and TV trucks outside marking the historic occasion.

Nordonia Athletic Director Rob Eckenrode said the day was “crazy” in a good way at the high school.

“It was so exciting,” he said. “The kids and everyone are so excited.”

Although things are pretty busy in the fall with his own coaching duties, Fox said he hopes to break out the four Ward Browns jerseys he bought for himself, his wife and two kids and make the trek to FirstEnergy Stadium to watch Ward play.

“It’s so much fun to play a small part in the success of such a great young man.”

Craig Webb, who wore his bright orange Browns polo shirt to work Friday, can be reached at [email protected] or 330-996-3547.

During second round of NFL Draft, Browns select Austin Corbett and Nick Chubb. C1

There’s a new resident at the Akron Zoo and she has a pretty voracious appetite.

She will eat tons of just about anything.

The enclosure for “Big Hanna” — the first aerobic composter ever to be used at a zoo or aquarium — is situated just off the zoo’s main parking lot.

Built in Sweden, the composter is just one more step in the Akron Zoo’s effort to be a zero-waste facility.

Zoo President and CEO Doug Piekarz said this means food waste and animal droppings will no longer have to be disposed of off-site.

Piekarz said the new technology makes it possible to compost on property and, more important, do it odor-free.

The hope, Piekarz said, is that visitors will wander from the parking lot to check out Big Hanna, from its solar panels that keep it off the grid to its compost capabilities that can turn organic garbage into usable compost in just six weeks.

“I believe that we can change the future,” he said. “We need to show them [our visitors] the way.”

Food waste, said Ohio EPA Director Craig Butler, is a major contributor to garbage dumped into landfills and eventually a generator of harmful methane gas as it decomposes.

Efforts like the initiative at the Akron Zoo to divert this waste from a landfill is an important step to help reduce greenhouse gases, he said.

“This was a really important project for us,” he said.

The Ohio EPA and Summit ReWorks worked together to help fund and plan the project that has been in the works for years.

Marcie Kress, executive director of Summit ReWorks, said finding ways to deal with food waste, from restaurants to major institutions such as hospitals, has been kicking around since 2008.

And with a county goal of reducing the food waste being dumped in landfills by 25 percent by 2026, Kress said, the time has come to get serious about the problem.

She said having a working solution like Big Hanna that can be toured to show how effective it can be is a great first step.

“This can start a conversation that can spread throughout Summit County,” she said.

The project cost $243,700, with the Ohio EPA contributing $162,000. ReWorks is chipping in $20,000 to help fund its daily operation.

How Hanna works is fairly simple.

Food and animal waste is gathered from throughout the zoo and then loaded onto a special motorized cart.

A worker backs the cart onto a platform next to the composter.

The load is dumped and grinded into smaller pieces, and wood shavings or straw are added as it is loaded into the composter.

Once inside a heated tumbler, the material is spun two to three times an hour and slowly makes its way through a series of stainless steel chambers before coming out as a ready-to-use compost.

The compost will be used at the zoo and shared with Keep Akron Beautiful and Let’s Go Akron for landscaping and beautification efforts throughout the city.

Piekarz said this not only shows the zoo’s commitment to the environment but its willingness to collaborate with others.

“We believe in collaborative leadership, and this project is an example of this,” he said.

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

Sorry kiddos.

You might have to wait another year or find some really, really tall shoes to ride Cedar Point’s new Steel Vengeance roller coaster.

The Sandusky park announced Saturday that the minimum height requirement to ride the record-breaking, so-called hyper-hybrid roller coaster will be 52 inches.

The height requirement had been expected to be 48 inches.

The new coaster has risen from the timbers of the old wooden Mean Streak coaster and now sports a higher lift hill and new steel track that allows the coaster trains to go upside down.

The coaster is set to make its debut this week when media from throughout the country will descend on the park Wednesday to take it for a spin.

And on Friday night, it will debut for those who purchased special first-ride tickets to benefit the LeBron James Family Foundation that assists Akron school kids in getting good grades and remaining on the path to a college education.

At a 52-inch height requirement, the ride that reaches a height of 205 feet with 30 seconds of out-of-your-seat airtime joins an elite club of the park’s most extreme rides.

Other rides at the park with a similar lofty height requirement include the Maverick, Top Thrill Dragster and Valravn roller coasters.

Park spokesman Tony Clark said the decision to set the height requirement at 52 inches came after a variety of tests of the new ride over the past week or so.

He said the ride has “dynamic layout with unprecedented maneuvers, steep drops and airtime” and after discussions with its builder, Rocky Mountain Construction, the requirement was raised from 48 inches.

“Having taken a few laps on the world’s first hyper-hybrid roller coaster, I can say that it’s an amazing ride,” he said. “A ride unlike any other that I’ve been on.”

Craig Webb, who will be updating the coaster’s media preview on Wednesday via Twitter and on Ohio.com, can be reached at [email protected] or 330-996-3547.

A popular swimming lake in Springfield Township for generations of sun worshippers and water lovers has been sold and will open this summer.

Akron wrestling promoter Jeremy Caudill, who grew up near the Canton Road private park, purchased Lake Kim Tam Park last week for $240,000.

The park that sits along the Tuscarawas River includes a man-made, spring-fed lake with diving platform and slides; shelters; a building with a concession stand on the first floor and apartments on the second floor; and volleyball, basketball and tennis courts.

It did not open last summer.

It was closed after Charles “Bill” Patton, who built the attraction in the late 1950s, died in December 2016 and the family mulled what to do with the park.

Caudill said he has a multi-year plan to turn the 19-acre property into a regional destination.

The first task will be to spruce the place up by removing and trimming trees and putting on a fresh coat of paint.

“I’m going to bring in a lot of workers,” he said. “A lot of this work is cosmetic.”

He said he will drain the lake — a process that can take as long as a week — and give it a good scrubbing.

He also plans to take out the tennis courts by the parking lot and create an outdoor event and concert space.

Caudill plans to use the newly created raised stage area as a spot to host some of the wrestling and MMA matches he already organizes in the area.

But he is quick to point out that any event held at the park will be “family friendly.”

Another goal for this summer will be to open an ice cream stand in the building by the parking lot that can be visited whether you buy admission to enter the park or not.

He will also open the concession stand by the beach and plans to make improvements to the changing rooms.

Although he is still sorting out how much admission or season passes will be, Caudill said, he has already decided to allow guests to bring picnics and snacks onto the grounds.

“I want to keep it family friendly,” he said.

The park is planning to host an open house on May 13 to let guests wander around and purchase season passes.

Eventually, he wants to construct some cabins to offer overnight stays on the property.

Caudill plans to keep the Kim Tam moniker — so named after Patton’s daughters Kimberly and Tamara — but plans to name the lake Melanie after his wife who also grew up in Springfield Township.

He plans to keep Patton’s grandson Ben Litz around because he knows the property as well as anyone since he helped run it the last couple of years it was open. He also helped care for Patton and lived on the property with his grandfather.

Litz said he’s still disappointed the family couldn’t agree not to sell it but he’s glad it is reopening.

“This is just a huge relief,” he said. “I made a promise to my grandfather that I would keep up this park until we are roommates again.”

Caudill admits getting the park up and running will be quite an undertaking but he thinks it is important to keep the lake open for future generations to enjoy.

“I just bought myself a full-time job,” he said with a laugh.

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

The familiar sound of the clicky-clack of a roller coaster inching its way to the top of a lift hill.

The blurring sight of carousel horses going round and round.

The smell of yummy fried food.

It may not be summer yet, but the region’s amusement parks either have already opened their gates or are just about to open for the season.

Kings Island has been open on weekends for a week now, and Memphis Kiddie Park in Cleveland will open on Saturday.

They will be followed soon by Cedar Point, Kennywood and Waldameer.

And this summer will usher in some pretty neat and terrifying new rides from the gentle Thomas the Train Engine to what is being billed as one of the fastest and wildest roller coaster experiences in the country.

Kings Island

A trip down Interstate 71 toward Cincinnati offers the region’s first chance to catch some summer fun as Kings Island is now open for weekends.

The park is still riding high after last year’s opening of the fun-themed Mystic Timbers wooden roller coaster.

This summer it all about food at the park.

The park has hired James Major, the two-time winner of the Food Network’s Chopped cooking contest and a contender on Alton Brown’s Cutthroat Kitchen to be its executive chef.

Kings Island will have a new restaurant, the Coney Bar B Que, this season. It will offer smoked St. Louis-style ribs, pulled pork, rotisserie chicken and Queen City Sausage and fresh side dishes.

The eatery will be situated in the park’s Coney Mall area next to the Scrambler.

Kings Island’s gate ticket price is $69. More info: visitkingsisland.com.

Memphis Kiddie Park

A Cleveland tradition opens this weekend.

The beauty of Memphis Kiddie Park, situated at 10340 Memphis Ave. in Brooklyn, is that little has changed since it first opened its gates to pint-size kids in 1952.

It still boasts 10 kiddie rides, all either original to the park or the era.

But at the start of this season there will be an obvious change.

The train station that has stood from opening day is gone.

Workers are now building a new one for the popular train ride that makes its way around the small park.

President Russell Wintner said the old structure simply could no longer be repaired so a new one was needed.

The goal was to get the work done by opening day on Saturday, but Wintner said this past brutal winter delayed construction so the train will not be up and running for a bit as they still have to put down the track.

“We removed the track where the station was,” he said. “We will create a new rail bed at the right elevation for the new floor as well as re-level the existing track to meet up with the rail in the station at the correct elevation.”

Single tickets are $2.50 with discounts offered on books of large quantities. More info: memphiskiddiepark.com.

Cedar Point

This is a big year for Cedar Point.

The park in Sandusky is gearing up to shatter a long list of records when it unveils its much-anticipated hybrid roller coaster, the Steel Vengeance, to the public on Opening Day, May 5.

The ride will have a soft opening April 27, with a First Rider Benefit to raise money for the LeBron James Family Foundation.

The Steel Vengeance has risen from the wooden timbers of the old Mean Streak and now boasts a 200-foot drop, four inversions, a top speed of 74 mph and a record amount of airtime.

The coaster will set 10 world records and rack up another five for the park, including having the most roller coaster track at one amusement park (57,865 feet or 11 miles), and being home to the most rides: 71.

The park plans to introduce new costumed characters who will interact with guests in and around the coaster based on folks who reside in FrontierTown.

Cedar Point also will have new shops, restaurants and games in and around the Steel Vengeance and the return of Chick-fil-A to the park.

The park’s gift shop at the main entrance is getting a complete redo in the offseason and will sport a beach theme when the park opens in May.

The BBQ Shack on Frontier Trail will now be called Frontier Foldovers and offer folded brisket, chicken and Italian meat sandwiches.

And Sidewinder Sue’s, near the FrontierTown train station, will offer “twisty” fries with meat toppings of pulled pork, brisket or chili.

A new eatery, Miss Keat’s Smoke Shack, located by the Last Chance Saloon in FrontierTown, will feature barbecue brisket, pork, wings, sausage and sides.

The FrontierTown Shooting Gallery with animated scenes and sounds will be outside of the Jitney Arcade.

The popular basketball shooting game will become a game of H-O-R-S-E where guests have to attempt to sink baskets from strategically-placed spots on the midway.

There will also be an outdoor stage — the Gossip Gulch — that will feature live entertainment, including the park’s Bluegrass Jamboree band.

The Palace Theatre in FrontierTown will feature Lusty Lil’s French Revue, a family-friendly show with live music, comedy and can-can dancers.

The stage in the park’s Celebration Plaza will feature the show Vertical Impact with acrobats and dancers.

Another new show will be Snoopy’s Dog Days of Summer, featuring the Peanuts gang on the Main Midway near Pagoda Gift Shop.

The 2018 ticket price for an adult at the gate will be $72. More info: cedarpoint.com.

Kennywood

Kennywood amusement park outside of Pittsburgh will mark its 120-year anniversary with one of its most ambitious and expensive additions ever.

A Thomas the Tank Engine themed area will be added to the park, which is already on the list of National Historic Landmarks.

The Thomas Town will feature five new rides, including a Thomas train ride, a stage show, special themed play and entertainment areas and a store.

Park spokesman Nick Paradise said construction continues on what will be the second-largest Thomas-themed attraction in the country.

Paradise said an exact opening date has not yet been set but they hope to open it this summer.

The themed area will be in a section of the West Mifflin Park that sits atop a bluff and overlooks the Monongahela River and the Edgar Thompson Steel Works.

Paradise said the setting is not unlike that of Thomas’ Island of Sodor.

The rides will be in and around the Olde Kennywood Rail Road that will be re-themed to tell the Thomas & Friends story. The train attraction dates back to 1945.

The rides and attractions will include characters from Thomas to Diesel to Cranky the Crane to Harold the Helicopter. Sir Topham Hatt, the Controller of the Railway on the Island of Sodor, will make daily appearances.

Kennywood will open for the season May 5.

The 2018 ticket price for an adult at the gate will be $48.98. More info: kennywood.com.

Waldameer

This gem of an amusement park not far from Presque Isle State Park just outside of Erie, Pa., is adding about $1 million in improvements for this season.

Waldameer is adding a Balloon Race ride in its Kiddieland. The ride will spin kids inside of colorful hot air balloons around and up and down. It will be situated by Bonnie’s Cookie House and the Happy Swing.

For those kids at heart and those looking for some wet thrills, Waldameer is adding a CannonBOWL slide to its water park.

The new slide will be located next to Liquid Lightning and Awesome Twosome slides, and will feature a series of drops, twists, and turns before ending with a big splash.

Riders will use tubes and can ride alone or with a friend.

Waldameer opens for the season on May 5 and the water park on May 25. The 2018 ticket price is $39.50 for both the amusement park and water park. For more, visit waldameer.com.

Craig Webb, who can’t wait to lose his voice screaming on the Steel Vengeance, can be reached at [email protected] or 330-996-3547.

The folks who run Cedar Point always like to say guests vote with their feet when it comes time to deciding whether a ride stays or ends up with a tombstone in the Midway graveyard on Halloweekends.

The park recently released a list of its most popular rides based on ridership numbers last season — and ones that will likely be around for quite a while.

No surprise here, all of the Top 5 were roller coasters.

Coming in at No. 5 with 1,151,349 riders is the Raptor.

This one is a relative senior citizen in coaster years having opened in 1994.

But with some six inversions over 3,790 feet of track, the Raptor still offers thrills.

I have to admit, it is not among my favorites.

For one, it usually has an intimidatingly long line. I often forget about it and pass by its entrance in my haste to get to the far reaches of the park.

Next up at No. 4 is the Valravn clocking in with 1,418,584 riders in 2017.

I have to say it is a hoot to sit in the front row and dangle over the edge of the hill for what seems like an eternity before being let go.

But this is one I try to avoid in the middle of day and wait until the wait is a reasonable amount of time, usually at the end of the night.

The Magnum XL-200 had 1,450,892 riders and came in at No. 3.

Every time I visited the park in 2017, the third train was not running, leaving a pretty crowded platform and a long wait.

Dating back to 1989, this is the oldest ride on the list but it still packs a punch.

It also has a rich history.

The Magnum XL-200 was once the tallest, fastest and steepest roller coaster in the world and the first hypercoaster — a coaster to top 200 feet.

It is hard to miss the second most popular.

The GateKeeper is the first ride to greet guests as it whisks itself over their heads at the front gate.

Some 1,588,646 riders last year climbed aboard the winged roller coaster that opened in 2013.

The lines can be long at times, but with two separate entrances to the platform it moves pretty fast and sometimes if you are lucky at closing time you might even be allowed to ride a second time if no one is waiting to ride in your particular row.

The top ride at Cedar Point in terms of ridership is no surprise: The Millennium Force.

And quite frankly, it would not surprise me if it is still No. 1 after this season, ahead of the park’s highly anticipated new wood/steel hybrid coaster Steel Vengeance.

The Millennium Force had 1,672,584 riders in 2017 and I’m pretty sure none of them walked away disappointed.

With a top speed of 93 mph, it reaches a height of 310 feet and even coined the new term of “giga-coaster” when it opened in 2000.

This is a ride best enjoyed twice.

Ride it in the morning to take in the spectacular views of the park and Lake Erie, then return after dark for the sheer terror of blindly whisking over hills and through dark tunnels.

Staff writer Craig Webb loves amusement parks and writes for Pulse. For more on Cedar Point, visit cedarpoint.com.

They would not be the first basketball shoes to honor LeBron James’ alma mater, St. Vincent-St. Mary High School.

But they would be the first ones in recent memory to be made available to the public.

The sneakerverse exploded Tuesday when photos were leaked on nikelebron.net — a website dedicated to all things pertaining to James’ shoes — showing a version of his signature Soldier line that pays homage to where that “kid from Akron” made a name for himself on the national level.

The all-white high-top “SVSM Home” basketball shoes feature the school’s signature green as an accent along with its mascot name, the Irish, on the front.

Stitched on the side is a silhouette of James making one of his signature dunks. Inside the shoe is the school’s mascot, a fighting Irishman complete with a halo, a“V” and an “M.”

There is no timetable from Nike of when, or even if, the Akron-centric version Soldier 12 shoe will ever be released.

Nike and James are notoriously tight-lipped when it comes to the release of such shoes. Attempts to reach both were not returned.

Previous incarnations of James’ Soldier shoes have retailed for $130 to $180 or even more.

This would not be the first time James has looked for inspiration from his high school when designing a shoe. But the previous Irish incarnations have been given as exclusive gifts to athletes at the school to wear at sporting events.

Gino D’Andrea, the school’s director of advancement, said they had not heard that Nike and James were looking to release a shoe nationally to honor the private Catholic school, but that doesn’t mean it is not in the works.

D’Andrea said they are proud of James’ accomplishments and his work over the years to support the school, including a $1 million donation to renovate the school’s gym. James graduated in 2003 and the Cavs made him the No. 1 pick in the draft that year.

“This is a pleasant surprise,” D’Andrea said.

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

Sunday’s rain was enough to fill buckets in Akron.

The National Weather Service says some 2.14 inches of rain fell in Akron during the day on Sunday.

This combined with continued showers into Monday were enough to flood streets and sent some rivers and streams over their banks causing road closures throughout the region.

Saturday also brought a 37-degree temperature difference from a high of 78 degrees to a low of 41 degrees.

And Sunday’s temperature swing was a high of 63 degrees and a low of 39.

By the time Tuesday rolls around snow showers could leave as much as two inches on the ground before it turns over to all rain later in the day.

The snow won’t stick around for long with highs rebounding to the 50s by Wednesday.

It has certainly been a rainy stretch of late in Akron.

The weather service says some 7.89 inches of rain has fallen in the city since March 1.

This is about three inches above the normal rainfall expected this time of year.

With 15.44 inches of rain since Jan. 1 — that’s 5.74 inches above the average.

It should be noted that last year was also exceptionally wet with 15.40 inches of rain haven fallen over the same period.

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

Follow reporters Malcolm X Abram and Craig Webb, and photographer Mike Cardew, as they cover the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony in Cleveland on Saturday. We’ll have the latest from inside Public Hall, and from the scene outside and at the Rock Hall watch party.

The grand ol’ dame of a theater in downtown Akron will dazzle April 20 with what is believed to be one of the largest gatherings ever of drag queens and female impersonators in the Rubber City’s history.

Like the Civic, which is known for its exaggerated architecture and extravagant design, the inaugural Drag Battle and Show promises gussied-up, over-the-top performers.

There’s a lot at stake at the show and competition. The winner will be crowned Miss Akron Pride Festival and reign over the city’s Aug. 25 event that will raise awareness of the area’s LGBTQ community.

After the success of last summer’s Akron Pride Festival, spokesman Phil Montgomery said, organizers looked for ways to continue to grow the event, and a drag queen battle seemed like a good start to build excitement this go-round.

Montgomery said they have lined up Raven of RuPaul’s Drag Race and RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars to host the evening, with doors opening at 8 p.m.

At press time, 14 queens were scheduled to compete at the Civic. The contestants will be judged on everything from costume design to runway lip-sync to fielding questions and answers.

The panel of judges include Cody “Poundcake” Brown of The Alan Cox Show on WMMS radio, pageant professional Antonio Stanton, State Rep. Emilia Sykes, lifestyle blogger Dina Younis and Beacon Journal features editor Lynne Sherwin.

Montgomery said the show will have an edge to it but they have made sure it is family-friendly.

“This should prove to be a very entertaining evening,” he said.

Akron’s Kaleigha Diamond is among those planning to take the stage.

She is considered a female impersonator, and is in the midst of transitioning from male to female.

Most don’t know it, Diamond said, but there are drag shows just about every day of the week in Akron and the surrounding area. And Diamond performs at most of them — thankfully they are usually late at night, so it doesn’t interfere with studies at Stark State. She usually performs to singers like Beyoncé.

“This drag queen thing is growing every day,” Diamond said. “There’s probably not a bar in Ohio that I have not performed at.”

Dustin Conrad — aka Ashley Adams Andrews — said he used to perform all the time, too. But after 14 years, Conrad said, he’s stepped back a bit and struts the stage one or two days a week.

Most shows feature five or six performers, Conrad said, so having as many as 15 on the stage is a pretty big deal.

“This is really cool,” he said. “I think this is a good opportunity to open this up to a lot of people.”

A week out from the event, more than 300 tickets have already been sold. Tickets are $15 and are available at akronpridefestival.org.

Conrad, an Akron resident, said he’s ordered some new stuff for this competition and plans to incorporate some of his old costumes for the show at the Civic.

As for the theme of his performance, he said, he waits to see what he’s “feeling that night” to draw on everything from R&B to hip-hop to Top 40 hits.

“I’m not crazy over the top when I perform,” Conrad said.

Akron’s Rosita Estefan is considered old school. And it is not just because she’s been performing here since the 1970s.

Estefan said she draws her inspiration from more traditional drag genres, impersonating greats such as Barbra Streisand.

At Friday’s show, she is toying with idea of performing to a number from the musical Sunset Boulevard.

For her years of dedication to the craft, Estefan will be given a Lifetime Achievement Award. She began her career as a folk singer and her act evolved into drag performance art.

Estefan was once crowned Miss Gay Classic USA and has performed to raise funds for everything from breast cancer awareness to a children’s charity to the David B. Cook Fund and Violet’s Cupboard.

She’s seen a lot over the years.

“We have a whole generation of new performers,” Estefan said. “There’s a different feel. They perform to new music.

“A lot of the young people today do not even know who Streisand is.”

That said, Estefan said, it is great that there is a new generation keeping the craft alive and well.

“It’s like one generation handing down to another,” the Akron hairdresser said. “Some [performers] today are bit more comedic and bizarre. But it is totally entertaining.”

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