It's back! Stow PRIDE returns with new name, new activities and adapted favorites

Krista S. Kano
Akron Beacon Journal
A long line of emergency vehicles from Stow and the surrounding communities make their way along the parade route at the Stow Fourth of July parade in 2018. The parade was canceled last year because of the pandemic, and is returning this year on a smaller, modified scale.

Stow Pride, the community celebration leading up to the Fourth of July is returning this year, but under a new name, Stow Strong, and with a host of new and adapted activities.

The name change was supposed to go into effect during the 2020 event, but that was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

As Stow officials have been planning the 2021 version, to be held June 26 to July 5, state mandates as well as recommended best practices have continued to change, and so, despite recently relaxed health orders surrounding outdoor gatherings, the city is still planning events that require registration, masks and social distancing. 

"We have to think about what if something changes. If we're too overly exuberant, how would we pull it back? We'd rather be cautious," Mayor John Pribonic said. "This is a transitional year, and we want to be respectful to everyone. We don't want to be the city that caused a massive outbreak. So we want to carry on our traditions, but remain cautious."

No event exemplifies that philosophy more than the annual Fourth of July Parade that typically draws crowds of over 10,000, and includes around 3,000 in the procession. 

"Even just to line up in the parking lot, that many people in a small area? It just doesn't work this year. And then the potential crowd. We know a lot of people would chose not to attend, but plenty would and we can't control that,"  Parks and Recreation director Linda Nahrstedt said. 

So instead, this year's parade will be a "hybrid experience" with a smaller version of the parade traveling through local neighborhoods.

There will also be designated common areas in the city where people can gather to watch; those locations will be released at a future date.

"People will be disappointed, and I understand that," Pribonic said. 

Nahrstedt added the city will not solicit groups, businesses or organizations to participate in the parade.

"We are hopeful 2022 will bring back our traditional parade," she said. 

Back this year is the traditional Stow Firecracker Run, a 2-mile fun run and a 4-mile race, that will kick off at 7:30 a.m. on July 5. Pre-registration will be required and is limited to 200 runners for each race. Masks are required before  and after the competition. 

One of the new, and sure to be most popular events, will be the Fun in Stow Play Day and Community Picnic on June 26 at the City Center Complex. The new event is being planned in conjunction with the Stow Arts Commission. 

"There's a great desire to come together as a community, so that's the thought behind the event. How do we bring people together? We're moving along with the Stow City Center, and we want people to think of it as the city center complex, so this is a way to get that started with very simple and casual fun," Nahrstedt said. 

The Play Day will include various activities like scavenger hunts, crafts, touch-a-truck, yard games, and a DrumFit Demo, as well as appearances by Dr. Awesome Bubble Guy, stilt walkers, jugglers, and Jungle Terry. 

Rather than bring in food trucks, which would promote congregating in long lines, Stow is instead adapting its popular Monday Meals program, which has civic groups deliver meals from local restaurants. The civic groups keep the tips for their organization, while the restaurants get increased sales without losing a portion of profits to online delivery services. 

During the community picnic, the civic groups will deliver food from Stow restaurants directly to the city center, and rather than keep the tips for their own group, will donate everything to Bulldog Bags. 

"Linda and her crew are working with the restaurants to develop special menus for that day like family portioned pizza and fried chicken, or they can order off the menu too. We're allowing restaurants to decide," Pribonic said. 

Four to five restaurants have already signed on, with the potential for eight to 10 more, Nahrstedt said. 

Throughout the day, residents can also participate in the Arts Commission's community collage art project.

"Everyone can add a piece of themselves to the painting. The Arts Commission will design the collage and then the community will add their own handprint," commission chair Kari Suhaldonik said. 

Also new this year is the Patriotic Pedal on June 27 when, by registration only, people can come to the Stow-Munroe Falls High School track and stadium to decorate their bikes, scooters and wheelchairs and then parade around the track. The city's two specialty bike shops, Eddy's Bike Shop and Marty's Bike Shop, will also be a part of the event in some way, Pribonic said. 

"We want to tie businesses in in any way we can," Pribonic said. 

As always, the Stow Munroe-Falls Public Library will also offer programming, and this year will focus on overall well-being. 

"2020 has been a challenging year for everybody.  During Stow Strong Week, the library is joining with the city and offering programs that focus on emotional, physical, and mental well-being.   The library also has a wide variety of resources from its print and digital collection to help patrons find their inner strength," library spokeswoman Ann Malthaner said. 

Planned activities include a discussion with FOX 8's Loree Vick about depression, suicide and mental health on June 28; a self defense course on June 29; and yoga on July 1. All events require registration and will be on the city center lawn. 

The weeklong celebration will also include a community cleanup day on June 26, the dedication of the Leona Farris Lodge (formerly Silver Springs Lodge) on July 1, and a paint n' pour event at Silver Springs Barn on July 2.

Stow Strong will also coincide with the installation of the Arts Commission's city beautification project, which has local artists designing artwork to wrap around the electrical traffic signal boxes around state Route 91 and Graham Road. 

More information abut Stow Strong, including times and registration details, are still being determined, but are expected to be released mid-May via a city newsletter. 

Reporter Krista S. Kano can be reached at 330-541-9416, kkano@thebeaconjournal.com or on Twitter @KristaKanoABJ.