Happy Birthday, Cuyahoga Falls! Prepare for 10 days of unequivocal fun, festivities and excitement as the bicentennial mega-celebration, which kicked off Aug. 3, will include ceremonies, concerts, tours, fireworks and a parade, among other activities. More than two-dozen special events are planned, which began with River Heritage Day and the Crooked River Summerfest, a three-day event.
Opening weekend began on the river with kayakers in a flotilla, followed by a pontoon boat bearing the mayor, city council and other state and local dignitaries, as well as the Bicentennial torch traversing the river and docking along the Riverfront Parkway under the Portage Trail bridge. The ceremonial torch was handed off to an indian chief, and then made its way to the stage where the Cuyahoga Valley Youth Ballet treated the audience to an interpretation of the "Birth of the River."
A drum circle began immediately following the Ballet and the Bicentennial Flame, a 30-foot torch located at Falls River Square, near the clock tower, was lit by the mayor. The torch will burn brightly with a five-foot-tall flame for the duration of the celebration. At the conclusion of the opening ceremony, the fun began when the Crooked River Summerfest kicked off and will last for three full days of fun, food, music, celebrities, contests and more. Musical groups performed from 7 p.m. to midnight, and there was a fireworks show at 10 p.m.
An ice cream social, concert and the rededication of the historic Keyser barn, on Bath Road, with its new exterior and bicentennial logo took place Aug. 4. There were historical house tours from 10 a.m. to 4 pm. The fun continued with LaFlavour, the Luxuries and national recording artist Donnie Iris and the Cruisers performing on stage back downtown.
On Sunday, there will be community ward picnics from 3 to 5 p.m. Put-In-Bay legend Pat Dailey and His Beach Party will perform on the main stage at 8 p.m., and the Cleveland Orchestra will host Cuyahoga Falls Night at Blossom at 7 p.m., performing "A Night at the Opera."
Cuyahoga Falls Mayor Don Robart told the Akronist, "It's interesting that we've been planning this for about 18 months and our committee has swelled up...last night we were handing out the volunteer shirts and we had upwards of 60 people. We had a lot of people involved; we had a lot of ideas come forward. We got committees formed and a chairman of each committee, and I've let them go out and use their own creativity to make this something very special and they have really responded very well.
"On Monday there will be a bicentennial car cruise-in where special presentations will be awarded," Robart said. "On Tuesday will be 'A Wrinkle in Time,' where the 1962 time capsule will be opened at 2 p.m. at Falls River Square. Wednesday is dedicated almost exclusively to our library because it is turning 100 years old. They will have a performance at 7 p.m. called 'Life in 1912,' with a lady in that era's garb, who will talk about the history of the city," he added.
"Thursday is family day with a bicentennial splash at Water Works family aquatic center and a free outdoor movie at 8 p.m. Friday, we will have the Rhythm and Blues Review, which is all weekend long, bands playing all day, and that evening we will also have the class alumni reunion called 'Tiger's Roar,' which they have every year," Robart said. "On Saturday, Aug. 11, we will have a huge parade starting off at 10 a.m. at Bolich Middle School that will come down Portage Trail and will come past a reviewing stand at City Hall." According to the city's press release, the parade will have more than 160 units participating and will travel 1.4 miles. Spectators will be able to text their vote for a "People's Choice" award by calling (330) 510-1511 and entering the unit number. Phone lines will be open from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Robart went on to add, "The contents of the time capsule will be on display at Valley Savings Bank right here at Portage Trail and 2nd Street. The Rhythm and Blues will continue all day on Saturday." The conclusion Sunday (Aug. 12) will have an inter-faith service at the amphitheater at 2 p.m. The closing ceremony is at 4 p.m., at which time the Western Reserve Community Band will be playing at Falls River Square. "We will extinguish the flame at that time and shut down the Bicentennial. It's 10 days of pretty much non-stop activities and I plan to be at everything," Robart concluded.
Reached by phone, honorary chairman Jeff Iula said, "A thing this large takes a lot of volunteers. Fortunately, the mayor let a lot of his staff do a lot of the work, and they have really been great at helping and assisting Robart's administration. As each month went by we tried to get more attractions, more things planned, more events. I kind of look at it...I worked at the Derby for 35 years and this is very similar – you work all year for one day. You hope that everything is in order; you hope that all of the people are there and everybody knows what they are doing."
Iula went on to explain, "With the Bicentennial, a lot of people remember the Sesquicentennial. I was only 10 years old, but there are a lot of us who remember how great it was, how neat the parade was and the other activities. So we are trying to make it like that, the same excitement, only it's, of course, the next generation. We still remember it 50 years ago and we're hoping our kids and grandkids will remember it in another 50 years. We want it to be a neat occasion that they talk about and remember all of it and I think that's going very well. I'm very honored to be on the committee," he added.
Asked when the actual date of the city's founding was, Iula said, "That was brought up at one of our meetings and our law director is still actually looking to try to find the exact date that they signed the proclamation to make us a city from a village at one time. Back in the 1900s, about 100 years ago, in early 1910, 1912, we were bigger than Akron. Akron went nuts between 1910 and 1920 because of the rubber industry. At one time they were talking about us being the county seat and possibly the kingpin of the county. And then those guys with those tires came in and just rolled us away."
Cuyahoga Falls was founded near the junction of Northampton, Stow, Tallmadge and Portage Township with a focus on a series of Cuyahoga River waterfalls that provided power for manufacturing. Dams were constructed in 1812, which gave rise to a flour mill, oil mill and a saw mill. A number of houses soon followed, and the area was known as the old village. Some of the earliest settlers of Cuyahoga Falls were Joshua Stow and William Wetmore. Initially called Manchester, the town was asked to change its name by the postal service due to the fact that there were other Manchesters in Ohio already. For further details visit www.cityofcf.com.