New 'Flashes First Thursday' welcomes students to explore our vibrant college town

Music, giveaways and more encourage students to discover all that's great about downtown Kent this Thursday

UPDATE: Due to inclement weather this event has been postponed until Thursday, September 21.

From 5-8 p.m. on Thursday, Aug. 24, all Kent State University students are invited to visit downtown Kent for music, giveaways and fun. This is the very first Flashes First Thursday, created to celebrate the first Thursday of the semester. Themed “Where the City and University Come Together,” the event is designed to introduce Kent State students to the city's vibrant downtown and all the places they can shop, dine, visit art galleries, hear live music, attend festivals and events and explore parks and trails.

Students at Acorn Alley

Kent-tastic giveaways

Giveaways for the first 500 students include an embroidered “Kent” city cap, sponsored by the Kent State Center for Student Involvement(CSI), and a t-shirt promoting the NEW “Flash's Flock” fan section, provided by Kent State Athletics.

CSI Kent city cap

Caps and t-shirts will be distributed at the CSI Tent and the Kent State Athletics, respectively, along with a downtown Kent BINGO card featuring participating businesses and organizations. Students can complete and turn in the card for chances to win prizes. BINGO cards will also be distributed at the Hometown Bank Plaza Stage.

Flash's Flock t-shirt

Cards with a completed "bingo" can be turned in for a chance to win one of more than 15 raffle packages assembled by downtown businesses and organizations. Cards with a “black out” – all squares completed – will have a chance to win one of two GRAND PRIZES: a $200 Downtown Dining Dollars addition to their Flashcard, sponsored by University Culinary Services, or a $500 Kent Card, sponsored by the Kent Area Chamber of Commerce and Main Street Kent.

Students near Water Street, downtown

Flashes in the Streets

Part of North Water Street will be closed to host an area for downtown businesses to set up tables and displays to showcase their offerings. A DJ will provide music and The Michael Weber Show will perform on the Hometown Bank Plaza Stage.

Golden Flash student athletes will be there to interact with fans, along with the always-popular Flash the Mascot.

Flash and cheerleaders downtown

The Kent State SPIN eBikes and eScooters will have a free promotional offer on Thursday to help students get downtown for the event.

A Great Opportunity for Students, Town and Gown

The idea for this event came from the team at Kent State’s Center for Student Involvement (CSI). They’re also the lead in organizing Flashes First Thursday. CSI worked with Dana Lawless-Andric, Ph.D., associate vice president of the Office of University Outreach and Engagement, as well as the Kent Area Chamber of Commerce and Main Street Kent, with both organizations involved from the very start.

Flashes First Thursday Logo

“Our goal was two-fold,” said Ben Davis, director of CSI. “One, to introduce students to downtown Kent and the variety of shops, dining and other activities they can experience there, and two, as an ‘all-student’ welcome back event. So many of the university’s welcome events take place prior to the first day of classes, when some of our returning students are less likely to be on campus. This event takes place after the first day of classes, so we hope it will be more appealing to all students.”

Dana Lawless-Andric, Ph.D.

Lawless-Andric underscored how events like these can enrich and strengthen the bonds between the city, its residents and the university community. "We are incredibly excited for the Flashes First Thursday event. This event is the evolution of several welcome back events we have held in partnership with the City of Kent and various community members over the years. Events like Flashes First Thursday let us show our entire Kent State community that the City of Kent cares about them as much as the university [does] and we are stronger together. We have a beautiful relationship with our community and that is part of the ‘secret sauce’ that makes Kent State so special too."

Students walking in downtown Kent

Katie Syvanych, associate director of CSI, and Joe Robinson, associate director for campus connection and traditions at CSI, were essential members of the event planning team. Syvanych said that some town-gown events in past years had been held on the grassy areas near the Kent State Esplanade Arch and the John S. Elliot School of Architecture and Environmental Design, but not right in the heart of downtown Kent, the way Flashes First Thursday will be.

The First of Many First Thursdays

Davis said that it is CSI’s intention, going forward, to continue working with the City of Kent, the Kent Area Chamber of Commerce and Main Street Kent to make Flashes First Thursdays a recurring welcome event during the first week of each semester.

Students walking in Acorn Alley


POSTED: Wednesday, August 23, 2023 12:21 PM
Updated: Friday, September 8, 2023 08:34 AM
Phil B. Soencksen