Thursday, August 14, 2014

Wanted: Guest Bloggers for Akron Empire!

Wanted: Guest Bloggers for Akron Empire!
by Brit Charek

Do you love Akron? Do you have a favorite thing to do in town that you'd like to share? If so, you should share it with Akron Empire!

Since Joanna and I started blogging two and a half years ago, friends have approached us with things that we should write about-- which is awesome, and it has given us some really great experiences-- but we have limited time and resources to explore these leads. That's why we have opened up our blog to guest bloggers, who can share their own experiences.

Some people are intimidated by the idea of posting their writing on the internet, but I assure you-- it's not a big deal. And to put you at ease, here are some tips as you develop your post:

The post can be as long or short as it needs to be.
Many of our guest bloggers are writing about something they really love--whether it's their good friend's band, their favorite place to eat, or an event they love-- and they want to do it justice. That doesn't mean you need to squeeze in every detail. Give the readers a taste of what you like about your subject, and let the reader discover some things for themselves!

Timing is everything.
Are you trying to help promote an event? Approach us sooner than later.  Joanna and I each post once a week, and since we have a backlog of awesome ideas--many of them time-sensitive--it's good to send us an email ahead of time so that we can schedule it and give you a timeline for when you should have the post ready for us.

People love lists.
We live in the digital age--it's great to have options. Check out Dina's 5 Reasons to Shop Crafty Mart or Jenny Jones's 5 Great Hikes in the Akron Area.

Not so great with words? Try pictures!
My buddy Heather took such great photos of the Light-UP Lantern Festival that the pictures spoke for themselves!  I just wrote a paragraph to give them some context, which would be easy for any great (or amateur!) photographer.

From Joanna's post about Flurry's Cafe

We love food posts!
Everyone needs to eat, and we love to hear about great places to go! We also love supporting area businesses and encouraging Akronites to reinvest their hard-earned money locally instead of at generic chain restaurants.

Check out guest bloggers' reviews of some of our favorite restaurants: Saffron PatchFlip Side Burgers, the Blue Door Café, and Chin's Place in West Akron.

But I have so many things that I could write about...
That's even better! Limit it to one thing for now--you can always write for us again in the future! We have plenty of guest bloggers that return once, twice, and even five times.

Nothing nice to say?
Then we're not the blog for you. Even though we encourage honest reviews of music, food, and other graeter-Akron experiences, our ultimate goal is to support all things local.

This is another reason we want guest bloggers! Just because I have no interest in the Akron death metal scene (or maybe I do? It's just an example...) and therefore don't have the language to talk about it, that doesn't mean it's not awesome. It just means someone besides myself is better suited to write about it, and find an audience for it.  Akron Empire is happy to give you that platform.

Ok, you win. I'm interested in blogging!
If you have a subject you’d like to write a blog post about for Akron Empire, please email us and place the words ‘I wanna WRITE’ in the subject line.

Click HERE for a list of all our posts by guest bloggers.

Monday, August 11, 2014

National Hamburger Festival

2014 National Hamburger Festival Review
by Joanna Wilson

The 9th annual National Hamburger Festival took place this past weekend in downtown Akron.  South Main was closed down to accommodate vendors that line both sides of the street to show off their burger creations in this one-of-a-kind summer festival.  I wasn't able to attend last year's event and so this year I made a point to come down and enjoy it in all its glory.

Menches Bros. booth--anyone else read David Giffels' humorous discussion of the invention of the hamburger in The Hard Way on Purpose?

Burger-makers come from far and near to showcase their specialty burgers.  Among the options, attendees were able to choose from regional burger chains such as White Castle, Max & Erma's, and Eat'n Park.  Those interested in tasting burgers from Ohio-only restaurants could choose from Youngstown's Martini Brothers, Smoke: The Burger Joint located in nearby N. Canton and Carrollton, and Menches Brothers found in both Green and Massillon, among others.  Menches Brothers is the local restaurant that boldly claims they invented the hamburger.

Did you grow up eating at Bob's Hamburg?
I was interested in sampling another Akron favorite, so I ordered from Bob's Hamburg--a local favorite diner whose legend stands tall.  (Bob's Hamburg is located at 1351 East Avenue).  Though there were tempting deluxe burgers all around me, I ended up delighted with my choice--a classic quarter-pound Bob's cheeseburg-- and I'm looking forward to visiting the Akron restaurant again.  Other local burgers at the festival included Retro Dog and Stray Dog--two Akron Empire eateries that we've written about before.  My partner doesn't eat meat yet he had several healthier burger options to choose from.  He went with Retro Dog's Bean Burger--one he regularly enjoys at each visit.

There was a long line for last year's winner at Smoke: The Burger Joint.

The National Hamburger Festival isn't just a place to taste delicious beefy sandwiches--they also host competitions in several categories including Best Traditional Burger, Best Cheeseburger, Best Creative Burger, Best Creative Toppings, Best Healthy Burger, Festival Favorite, and Festival Spirit Award.  The list of winners of the 2014 festival and past year's winners are to be found at the festival's website:  The two-day, family-friendly festival also includes children's activities, live music and entertainment throughout the weekend.  What's your favorite summer festival in downtown Akron?

Thursday, August 7, 2014

5 Great Hikes in the Akron Area

Akron Empire is beyond excited to welcome guest blogger Jenny Jones. She is a social scientist by trade and currently spends her days serving the public. She likes to keep it simple and tends to geek-out about nature and love being outside, especially hiking, biking, and backpacking. She also likes to make things, and has been known to cut a rug or two on occasion.

If you happen to see her on the trail, say hello, she would be love to meet you!

Salt Run at Kendall Lake, CVNP, in the winter.

5 Great Hikes in the Akron Area
by Jenny Jones

“Keep close to nature’s heart…and break clear away, once in a while, and climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods. Wash your spirit clean.” -John Muir

In the hustle and bustle that is modern life, it’s incalculably easy to get caught up in the stress of the daily grind. With each passing day the effects are felt, exponentially increased. By the end of the working week, the full impact of the cumulative effect takes its toll. There are many ways through which we can unwind, to peel the layers of stress away. I love taking advantage of the wonderful and various outlets and resources that we have in Akron: great local food and microbrews, live music venues, an indie theater, record stores, professional and alternative sporting events, and a growing number of really cool retail stores and pop-up art & craft fairs. I have learned, however, that my budget doesn’t always permit me to take full advantage of these, which is itself is a source of stress!

Recently, I found that I am in need of more. And by more, I mean less. And what I have discovered is an amazing, and free resource which also happens to be vastly more effective at reducing my stress and helping me to regenerate. My friend, and Father of our National Parks, John Muir, was on to something when he suggested I break away and spend some time in the woods. OK, he isn’t really my friend, and he didn’t really give me any advice, but only because I was born about 100 years too late. I’m sure we would have been great friends though, as he was a genius engineer, a talented writer and naturalist, and not to mention, had an amazing beard. Oh, and he just happened to recommend to President Roosevelt (Teddy), a proposal to preserve our natural resources which eventually led to the creation of our National Parks.

And he was right, the best way I’ve found to “wash my spirit clean,” is to spend time in wilderness. Doing this on a regular basis allows me to continue to function normally outside of the woods. Seriously. You know how that one friend is at 11:00am when they haven’t had any coffee? That’s me without trees. It can get ugly. So if you’re anything like me, and you are looking for a way to recharge without spending money to do so, take a hike. Literally. Right in our backyard is a number of beautiful Local and State Parks, and even a National Park, each as unique as the next. If you’re looking for a place to get started, here is a list of my 5 favorite hikes in the Akron area with some of the things I like best about each one.

1. Salt Run at Kendall Lake, Cuyahoga Valley National Park

I feel as though the parks are like children; as a parent, you really shouldn’t have a favorite. But let’s face it, you do. And Salt Run is mine. It’s incredibly beautiful year-round and is perfectly set in the Cuyahoga Valley to be whatever it is that you need it to be. The Salt Run trail itself is about 3 miles long, but it can be combined with the Kendall Lake, Kendall Hills and Cross Country trails to make a more than 8 mile hike. It is filled with hills and valleys and great foot bridges and stairs. For these reasons, it’s considered moderate, and is my go-to for a fitness hike. You’ll likely see dear, blue jays, a variety of Monarchs and other butterflies, and if you are lucky, you may even see a Pileated Woodpecker or two among the moss-covered trees. This loop-trail can be easily accessed by several different trailheads and is home to the Winter Sports complex where skis and snowshoes can be rented for your cross-country trek.

2. Kendall Ledges/Octagon Trail, Cuyahoga Valley National Park

Also in the heart of the Cuyahoga Valley is the Kendall Ledges trail. It’s a relatively easy 2 mile loop that is probably the most visually rewarding trail in the Valley. It can be combined with the Octagon Trail to increase it in length and difficulty. This hike will take you through some of the most beautiful scenery in NEOH. You’ll wind through 300 million year-old, moss-covered boulders, groves of eastern hemlocks, and find your way to a vista overlooking the Valley. Wild mushrooms, butterflies, and birds are plentiful, you’ll want to take a camera, and your time on this hike.

3. Buckeye Trail – Pinelane to Boston Mills Road, Cuyahoga Valley National Park

This trail comes in at a little over 4 miles, and I like to take it out and back, starting at Pinelane. This is a moderate-to-difficult hike. Be prepared to cross a stream at the bottom of the first hill, wool socks and waterproof boots are a best bet for a comfortable hike. You’ll soon find yourself looking up at what I lovingly refer to as the grand staircase. This is a relatively tough elevation change, but the most daunting of the trek. And your lungs will quickly forgive you as you take in the views of the rest of the journey. This portion of the Buckeye Trail winds through groves of fragrant pines, and is home to a variety of native oaks, hickory, and beech trees. This hike is my favorite winter hike, and especially so after the sun has set. Reflecting off of the snow, the moon will set the forest alight, making headlamps entirely unnecessary.

4. Hampton Hills Metro Park – Adams Run/Spring Hollow

These two trails are rated difficult, and can be combined to make a 4.8 mile loop. Hampton Hills boasts the most dense, earthy-smelling forest of moss-covered trees, ferns, and groves of white pines. The trail is rough in spots and there are several footbridges and stairways have been built to ease the way. Spring Hollow trail travels along the crooked run, and connects with Adams Run*. The trek up Adams Run is rewarded with a view from the “Top of the World”. Here you will see a meadow filled with beautiful wild flowers, eastern blue birds, and may even spot the nest of a Heron. (Adams Run is currently closed for repairs to tremendous damage suffered during the storms in May 2014).

5. Quail Hollow State Park 


This is by far the easiest of the hikes listed here, and the closest to my heart. Having grown up nearby, I have spent countless hours in and among the trees of this small but beautiful State Park. The trails here are referred to not by name, but by type and are vastly different from one to the next. Travel on footbridges through the wetlands and Peat Bog trail. Take time to meander through the dense and fragrant coniferous trail and deciduous trails. You’ll see a variety of ferns and wildflowers, several species of birds and ducks and dear. Hike in the evening, you may even hear the call of the resident Barred Owl. Plan to spend some time walking through the beautiful flower and herb garden, and pay a visit to the birds of prey housed by the park’s naturalist for rehabilitation.


Thanks, Jenny for contributing! If you like what you see, you can follow Jenny's adventures on Instagram.

Interested in guest blogging for Akron Empire? It's really easy! Just email us at with the subject line "I wanna WRITE" and tell us your idea. We'd love to hear from you!

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Akron Empire Favorites 2014: VOTE NOW

After more than two years of writing about our favorite places, restaurants, organizations, bands, and events,  Akron Empire wants to hear from YOU!  We are polling our readers for their greater-Akron favorites--for a limited time--and then, this Fall we will roll out the results.  We're motivated to do this for two reasons.  We'd really like to include our readers more in what goes into Akron Empire.  And, we'd like to give back a little more to those we write about.  We've got no plans to hand out fancy awards or host a gala ceremony.  Hopefully, the winners will be honored and will take pride in being selected an Akron Empire Favorite in 2014.  Okay--there are three reasons we're doing this--it also gives Brit and Joanna a strong suggestion for upcoming reviews and blog posts!  We hope you have as much fun voting as we did when we came up with these categories.

We welcome your participation.  Please vote only once--but we encourage you to get your friends to vote as well.  And, please--don't vote for national chains or out-of-towners.  Akron Empire and this poll are only about supporting greater-Akron efforts.  Voting ends MONDAY SEPTEMBER 1st, 2014 at 11:59PM(ET).  So have at it:

Click HERE to VOTE!

Monday, July 28, 2014

Local History & Geneology Resources in our Library

The Special Collections Division in the Akron-Summit County Public Library
by Joanna Wilson

If you are a regular follower of our blog Akron Empire, then you may be familiar with how much we love our local history.  We have welcomed two posts from guest blogger Juniper Sage who toured John Brown House and Perkins Stone Mansion.  And, I have written about my tour of Hower House, and the bicycling tour by How We Roll UA that stops at local landmarks and historical locations downtown.  These experiences also sparked my writing the history/nostalgia book A is for Akron.  More recently, I've been spending quite a few hours in the Special Collections Division at Main library.  If you have an interest in local history like I do, then this is a place of interest for you too.

The Special Collections Division located on the third floor of the Main library specializes in materials related to Local History and Genealogy.  These librarians are the ones who administer the endlessly fascinating digital scrapbook  They also keep a regularly updated blog Special Collections that shares about upcoming classes, teachers' resources, and how-to instructions for research.  The shelves in the Special Collections room hold reference copies of Akron and Summit County history books as well as history books about every other Ohio county.  In these stacks, you'll also find genealogical resources such as city directories, indexes to aid in finding newspaper obituaries, vital statistics (birth and death records), and more.  The friendly, knowledgeable, and infinitely patient staff in the Special Collections Division can guide you towards using their resources to research your family history, the history of your home or property, as well as any topic of local history.

Screen shot of the Genealogy and Local History database links from the ASCPL website.
Of course, the Akron-Summit County Public Library's website offers access to quite a few on-line databases.  With your library card, you can research these databases using your own computer--day or night.  Or, you can come into the library and use one of their computers.  If you are interested in Summit County history, you can have access to local newspaper archives, historical maps, and the local history database.  If you are interested in Genealogy, you can also access several ancestry sites, census records, military records, world vital records sites, and more.  The bulk of the people I come across using the resources at the Special Collections Division are researching their family tree including obituary searches using the microfilm machines to scan from decades-old Akron Beacon Journals.

Repeatedly, I've heard that our Akron-Summit County Library's Special Collections resources are some of the finest in the whole state.  Yet many aren't even aware of the archives available to them in this downtown location.  The Special Collections is also the repository of the photos and documents from The Summit County Historical Society.  They also hold archives from the Ohio Ballet, The Soap Box Derby, The WGC-Bridgestone Invitational (formerly known as The World Series of Golf), and maps of the Metro Parks, to identify just a few.  An exciting new project they have undertaken is creating a collection of recordings of local musicians to preserve Summit County's rich musical heritage.  If you're a local musician that has recorded a CD, please consider donating one to this growing collection (you can contact them by email with questions at:

I feel like I've barely scratched the surface sharing with you what local history and genealogy resources are available through our fine library.  You may need to discover this treasure for yourself!

Local History and Genealogy resources are available through the Special Collections Division
located on the third floor of the Main Library, in downtown Akron
60 S. High Street, Akron OH 44326
facebook page link: Special Collections at ASCPL
twitter link: @SCAkronLibrary

Friday, July 25, 2014

Popsmith: Locally Sourced Fruit Ice Pops

by Brit Charek

There's nothing quite like a refreshing ice pop on a hot summer day.
Now imagine those ice pops are made with locally sourced fruit that is fresh and in season. 

That's the idea behind Popsmith, who make ice pops that showcase Ohio's regional fruits and herbs. They stand behind the philosophy that their ice pops "are a reflection of our values and dedication to our local farmers."

Amazing seasonal flavors available at Countryside Conservancy's Farmers Markets!

"I was making homemade popsicles for the kids," says co-owner Beth Knorr, "and he [Beth's husband and business partner, Tim Knorr] was eating them to cool down after his runs, but he didn't like my flavors."

I guess perfection doesn't always come on the first try, but Beth was on to a great idea and Tim was looking to start a business enterprise.

"He began to do some online research for recipes and then just began experimenting on his own once he found a formula he liked," Knorr continues. "We started sharing the pops with our friends and they encouraged us to start a business. So, in 2013, we ordered equipment from Brazil and began this adventure."

In addition to selling their pops at farmers markets and special events, Popsmith is now offering a CSA service!

Logo designed by Andy Taray of The Social Dept
In typical CSAs, members buy “shares” of a farm’s harvest, investing early in the season in exchange for a portion of the fruits of the farmers’ labor throughout the season.

For Popsmith, members will receive a monthly box of seasonal flavors of ice pops made from local fruit. Each month’s share will include a total of fifteen pops, made up of a mix of between three and five flavors depending on what is seasonally available.

In addition to ice pops, members will also receive a letter with information on the farms where the fruit is sourced, information on upcoming events and behind the scenes information on Popsmith.

Three month subscriptions have already started and will begin again in August, at the cost of $115, a discount of 15% off their regular pop prices.

You can learn more at Popsmith's website. You can also follow them on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram, to see all the cool things they're doing!

Monday, July 21, 2014

2nd Annual Geekfest

2nd Annual Geekfest: Saturday July 26th, 2014
by Joanna Wilson

Created as a local alternative to ComicCon, Geekfest looks to be the pop culture event of the summer.  If you're a devoted fan of pop culture, comics and graphic novels, sci-fi, anime, gaming, and the like, then you're sure to find something at Geekfest to appeal to you.  The all-ages event, organized by and hosted at the Main library downtown (Akron-Summit County Public Library) on Saturday, is one packed full with hourly activities.

Geekfest is organized by Akron-Summit Cty Public Library and will be held at the Main Library downtown.

The many highlights of activities include a Magic the Gathering open play opportunity starting at 1pm.  At 2pm, there's a performance by the local teen pop/punk duo ShiSho in the auditorium, and at 3pm begins the cosplay contest and parade.  I heard that last year's cosplay was such a big hit--the organizers of the 2nd annual Geekfest are expecting an even bigger turnout with a must-see contest.

Cover art of ShiSho's 2013 EP entitled "Sisters."

In addition to trivia contests, DIY crafts, photo ops, games, and special events, there are also multiple opportunities to meet and ask questions from professional artists/creators in scheduled panels on sequential art, concept art, and more.

For more information, you can call the Teen Department at the library at 330-643-9067.
Or check the facebook event wall for the complete schedule of events: 2nd annual Geekfest

Geekfest 2014 is Saturday July 26th, from noon until 4pm.  See you there!