JACKSON TWP. Saturday morning, the parking lot at Kent State University at Stark was filled with more than 800 runners and walkers waiting for the takeoff signal at the first Up, Up & Away 5K race, which is a new addition to the Pro Football Hall of Fame event schedule.
It was combined with the scheduled Saturday morning lift of the more than 60 hot air balloons in town for the annual Balloon Classic & Fireworks. While the runners and walkers enjoyed the early morning breeze and cooler temperatures, the balloon captains weren’t too thrilled with it. None of the balloons launched on Saturday morning.
The first Balloon Classic was held in 1986, with a field of 25 balloons. The number of balloons and their shapes and sizes have changed over the years. The event had a name change this year due in part to the merger of the Jackson-Belden and Canton Regional Chamber.
In past years, the event was a combined Jackson-Belden festival, featuring music and food vendors, in tandem with the Balloon Classic. The event is now simply called the Balloon Classic & Fireworks.
The popular "Night Glow" of balloons was held Friday evening and the fireworks show went on as scheduled on Saturday night.
The Up, Up & Away 5K race started at 8 a.m. Saturday on the same 200-acre Kent State University at Stark campus as the Balloon Classic. Event coordinator Kathy Lindenberger said the response to the new race exceeded expectations.
"We’ve had over 450 people register in the past 10 days which brought our total up to over 800 people here this morning running and walking around this beautiful campus," Lindenberger said.
She said the idea for the new race came about after the race held at the Pro Football Hall of Fame was cancelled because of construction of the new stadium and Hall of Fame Village.
"We have a wonderful committee who worked with the Balloon Classic & Fireworks committee to make this event happen. We hope to build on this year’s success in future years. Plus, our main sponsor Omni Orthopedics and all of the sponsors have been a great help," Lindenberger said.
The race included two laps around the campus grounds. Awards were given to the top three finishers in the male and the female categories. Each of the top winners received airline travel vouchers. All finishers received a medal and a commemorative shirt.
There was a post party in the parking lot where Lindenberger said more than 100 prizes were rewarded to randomly drawn race numbers.
The top three finishers in the female category were Maddie Dunlap of Carrollton (18:39), Hannah Alderfer from Dover (18:49) and Hannah Christ from North Canton (19:26).
Top three finishers in the male category were Naimbia Njerakey from North Canton (15:42), Brent Martin from Wooster (15:50) and Cole Morris from Massillon (16:29).