Despite balmy temps hovering in the 60s last Saturday, the city of Solon kicked off its bicentennial with a Winterfest, drawing close to 1,500 people to the Community Center.
“I’m speechless,” Mayor Edward H. Kraus said while surveying the center. “It’s better than I expected.”
Guests entering the center, flanked in winter shades of cool blue and white, were first treated to an ice sculpture artist out front as well as performers on stilts donning costumes flanked with white and blue lights.
“What an entrance,” Community Center Manager Rich Parker commented. “This is an awesome way to celebrate an awesome city for our awesome residents.”
The evening, which featured aerial artists in the gym, food vendors, a deejay and virtual tours of the city, among other attractions, was way more than she anticipated, Solon resident Deb Gallagher said.
“It’s just fabulous,” Ms. Gallagher said while watching the aerial performer up high. “I didn’t know what to expect coming here, and it’s the best!
“It’s lighthearted and fun and so well-organized,” Ms. Gallagher added.
Jugglers performed near the rock wall on the first floor of the center, and a plethora of activities were presented for people of all ages.
Solon resident Shawna Vassar brought her husband Asher and four children to the event and felt there was something for everyone. Her children ranged in age from 1 to 13. They enjoyed taking part in the carnival games, face painting and the glitter tattoo station. All were holding various balloon art.
“This is awesome,” Community Center Director Donald W. Holub said, surveying the gymnasium. “This is just a great kickoff to get people out.”
Many in attendance enjoyed photo opportunities in a giant snow globe erected in the gymnasium. About 40 volunteers were on hand, including most of the city staff.
“It is everything I expected,” Solon Historical Society President and Councilman Robert Shimits said. “It is everything I had hoped for. I had encouraged them (the city) to do it right and make it a big deal.
“It’s a once-in-a-lifetime event, and the city stepped up,” he said.
The historical society had a booth erected in the gym and handed out souvenirs.
Winterfest is one of four signature events planned for the bicentennial, of which $217,000 was budgeted, with other events, such as Home Days and Pop Up in the Park, incorporating the overall theme.
Each of the rooms of the Community Center’s first floor was packed with activity. Ten-year-old Taylor Collins, of Aurora, said she loved seeing the artists on stilts, dubbing it very “cool.” Many young people stood by the characters to pose in photos.
“Overall, our goal is to kick off the year,” Solon Center for the Arts Director Tracy Sullivan said. “We are here to celebrate the 200 and bring the community together.”
“This is all about just about hanging out and gathering,” Mayor Kraus said. “That’s it!”