Thursday, February 19, 2015

Big Love Fest 2015

Big Love Fest 2015

For the second year in a row, Big Love Fest, a free festival celebrating community, creativity, and collaboration, will take place from noon-midnight on all three floors of the Musica complex (51 East Market St, Akron) Saturday, February 28.

The theme of Big Love 2015 is “S/Heroes,” recognizing and celebrating those who inspire individuals and the community. Global Ties Akron, The Akron League of Creative Interventionists, Akron Peace Project, Musica, and other local organizations have partnered to present this second annual event.

To get an idea of what is entailed in a Big Love Fest, 2014’s event featured 20 bands, five yoga classes, five food vendors, seven community-building workshops, seven installation artists, 10 poets, a meditation space, and was attended by 1,000 visitors.

Big Love Fest is also a zero-waste focused event (i.e. last year’s 1,000 visitors only created one bag of landfill trash--everything else was either recycled or composted). Few festivals have a zero-waste focus, and Big Love was estimated to be the biggest such event in greater Akron last year. ReWorks and Gill Gillono of Chicago VeganMania will once again be working with local organizers on the zero-waste focused aspect of Big Love.

Entertainment this year includes Zach & the Bright Lights, Light of the Loon, The Admirables, Rachel Roberts, The Help, The Poplars, Time Cat, and Angie Haze, among others.

One of last year’s highlights was a room-sized metal and cloth art installation by Michael Marras and Jessica Lofthus, depicting a phoenix rising from the ashes. The sculpture was commissioned to travel to several regional summer festivals. Michael Marras will again be creating for Big Love, as well as artists Megan Shane, Jessica Myers, April Couch, Caty Petersilge, and Mara Fragge, as well as live performance painters.

Other activities will include yoga classes by Blue Hen Yoga, Free Akron Yoga, and Body Karma Healing Yoga; hands-on children’s programs by Spring Garden Waldorf School; various workshops presented by The Akronist; and community workshop topics including “The Artist as a Place-Maker/Community Builder,” “Healthy Eating on a Budget,” “Implicit Bias Training,” “Hug Workshops,” “Urban Agriculture,” and more. Food vendors include Mustard Seed, Ms. Julie’s Kitchen, and Urban Eats.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

This Band Could Be Your Life: By Light We Loom

Akron Empire is excited to welcome back guest blogger Erica Scheutzow, who has written for us quite regularly over the past few years. When she is not sharing her favorite things about Akron with us, she runs a small business called As I Breathe I Hope, where she handmakes quirky original plush characters made from new and recycled fabrics. Check out AIBIH on Etsy and on Facebook.

This Band Could Be Your Life: By Light We Loom
By Erica Scheutzow

After many years, the band Bethesda has come to an end but members Shanna Delaney and Eric Ling aren’t done yet! Without skipping a beat, Shanna and Eric are pushing forward with their new project, By Light We Loom.

I heard the release of their first single, “The Ignition” in December and it was absolutely magical. I must’ve listened to it on repeat for what seemed like hours. Shanna and Eric possess a talent, passion and drive that makes you smile ear to ear when you hear their music and make you want more. I couldn’t be happier about their new venture and what they’re bringing to the music scene.

It was my pleasure to have a Q&A session with them about this new chapter and share their happenings with all of you. Let’s dig in!

Erica: How was the name of your new band decided upon?
BLWL: The name originated from the classic literary piece The Odyssey.  In this story, Penelope (Odysseus’s wife) is facing the hard reality that her husband might not be coming home.  Meanwhile, because of her beauty and fortune, she was being sought after by many men.  To put the suitors off, she weaves a funeral shroud for her father-in-law, Odysseus father, and says she will pick a suitor once she has finished.  Penelope, unwilling to give up hope of her husband’s return, would secretly undo the weaving that she had done the day before, and we imagine her doing this by candlelight. We loved this imagery of hanging on to hope, even when all signs seem to be saying that hope is lost.  In our minds, by light she loomed.  In a similar way, we were experiencing a period of “what now…” following the end of Bethesda (our former band). We could either let music in our lives wither away or pick up the broken pieces and loom them back together with hope. Like Penelope, we labored to prolong the hope and continue to do what we love most -write and perform music.  There is also a double meaning. Loom is also a verb meaning “to be made majestic” or “to come into greater view.” We connected it with the idea that it is by God’s light we are the truest, rawest, greatest, most beautiful form of ourselves.

Erica: What was your vision for this band?
BLWL: We knew that we wanted to continue to have a BIG sound and engage our audiences with high-energy shows. It’s just who we are.  Figuring that out with just two people was a task, but with the help of looping technology, we have been able to build songs that we are really proud of and really seem to capture what we are all about.  Truthfully, we are just excited to write and perform new music.  It is a fresh start for us.  We decided not to carry any songs over from Bethesda and to just create something that is wholly new and wholly us.  Our vision is to continue to write and perform music for ourselves, our God, and our fans.  We hope that in some small way, our stories and our songs can connect with people and trigger a memory, a thought, or a conversation that reinforces that hope that drives and energizes all of us.

Erica: How would you relate the style and influence of your sound to your listeners?
BLWL: It’s difficult to describe - which we think is a good thing. It’s folk-story songwriting with indie-pop dancey synths, beats, and guitars.  We write songs that have deep personal meaning to us and try to perform them with the energy and emotion that each song deserves.  We hope that what we do is engaging, original, and familiar all at the same time. Something you can dance to, sing along to, and sit and contemplate life to all in the same night.

Erica: How would you depict your style of writing lyrics and music?
BLWL: Lyrics are very important to us.  We are constantly moved by the things we encounter in our day to day lives.  We try to harness this emotion and these feelings and tell an honest story with them that speaks to the difficulty in life, in both the mundane and profound, and the constant backdrop of hope.  It takes time, but we think it is time well-spent. For the music, Eric basically locks himself in a room for hours to start.  It really is a grand experiment.  He writes the chord structure and the melody, and then builds synth beat loops for the entire song based on what seems to fit and give the song the desired energy.  Then, he writes a hook on the guitar.  Following that, he goes and searches for the sound to communicate that loop (whether it is a vintage synth or an antique horn, or others).  He then designs the loop. After that, it’s counter melodies, rhythmic backing tracks, and on and on until we feel like the song has the desired effect.  Then we play it - A LOT.  We talk about it - A LOT. We change and tweak it - A LOT.  After a long and exciting process, we finally play it and think, “THAT’S IT!” All of that to say, we are not searching for a specific “style,” but are really building every single melody, hook, beat,  and harmony around the original song and lyrics.  We are trying to create a beautiful and engaging tapestry on which to hang our song.  It’s a process, but one that we love!

Erica: Do you have any other notable contributors to this album?
BLWL: Our producer and recording engineer, Jim Stewart, has been instrumental in helping us take our loops that are designed for live performance and modifying them for a studio recording. His input and wizardry has been HUGE!

Erica: When is your debut show?
BLWL: Our EP release will be Friday May 1st 2015

Erica: Do you have any upcoming festivals on your roster?
BLWL: We luckily got to play a few fests already in our short time together (We just started in August 2014). We got to play Midpoint Music Festival in Cincinnati, NeoCycle Fest in Cleveland, and Heights Music Hop in Cleveland. We’ll be playing Brite Winter Fest in Cleveland on Feb. 21st.

Erica: Will you be traveling locally or nationally for this album?
BLWL: We are currently working on late winter and spring tour dates  regionally.  We are planning trips to Columbus, Dayton, Cincinnati, Grand Rapids, and more.  We also have local shows lined up with great local and national bands. We have already had the privilege of playing with some great national bands, such as The Kin, Twin Forks (Dashboard Confessional side project), Tiny Ruins, and more in our short existence. We’ll be playing with Frontier Ruckus at Beachland on February 7th. We are truly excited about what is in store!  As we grow, we hope to continue to expand out and reach further into national tours once again.

Erica: What do you hope to gain through this new venture?
BLWL: We aren’t sure what the end-goal of this venture is at the moment. With Bethesda we had a clear, driving goal, but now we’re just enjoying writing and performing music and taking opportunities that present themselves. However, we certainly hope to continue to meet incredible people that care about music and others wherever we go. The rest is just the icing on top.

Erica: How can fans access your new album?
BLWL: Our album will be available on iTunes and our Bandcamp for purchase on May 1st, 2015.

You can learn more about By Light We Loom by visiting their website or their Bandcamp site. You can also follow their adventures on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. Don't miss them at Brite Winter Fest in Cleveland on February 21st!

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Aladdin’s Eatery: Healthy & Exotic Lebanese American Cuisine

Akron Empire is beyond excited to welcome aboard new guest blogger Wendy Voelker! Wendy is a professional events planner, and recently moved to NEO from the Capital Region of New York State (just north of Albany). A New Yorker born and bred, she's slowly adjusting to the Akron-area food scene. An accomplished home cook, Wendy was organically trained in culinary skills by her mom, and is particularly obsessed with baking (usually bread). Her favorite food is hummus, and she is still in search of an authentic NY-style pizza in Ohio. Wendy can also be found at, which she's been writing since 2007.

Aladdin’s Eatery: Healthy & Exotic Lebanese American Cuisine
by Wendy Voelker

I’m relatively new to NE Ohio, and I’m having fun exploring new places to eat around town. I live and work in Twinsburg, so heading to Hudson is a great option for me, both for dinner and lunch. My most recent expedition was to Aladdin’s Eatery in Hudson with my friends Nicole and Francesca. I love Middle Eastern cuisine and Aladdin’s does it right.

Aladdin’s Eatery is based in Lakewood and has many locations throughout NE ohio as well as Columbus, Toledo, and Pittsburgh. In case you were wondering (because I was), Aladdin's Eatery is a separate company from Aladdin's Bakery, located in downtown.

This was the second time I’ve eaten lunch at Aladdin’s. The first time was so good; I couldn’t wait to go back. Their menu is rather extensive, and includes lots of vegetarian and vegan choices, and pretty much everyone can find something delicious on there. There are also plenty of options that include beef, chicken, and lamb. I’m currently experimenting with vegetarianism (and going dairy-free as well), and there were more than enough options to keep me happy.

The Aladdin’s outpost in Hudson is on 44 Park Lane, tucked into the First and Main district, aquaint and friendly shopping area full of restaurants, retail outlets, coffee shops, art galleries, and even a Heinen’s supermarket. There’s plenty of parking available, including a covered parking deck, all free. The inside of the restaurant is open and airy, painted in muted primary colors and filled with tables (I didn’t see any booths). The hostess seated us quickly, even during a busy weekday lunch.

Our server Jason was friendly and attentive, and got us drinks and a starter right away. We requested an order of hummus - because eating hummus in a Middle Eastern restaurant is practically a law, isn’t it? Aladdin’s hummus is as simple as it gets - chickpeas, tahini, garlic, lemon, a little salt. Very traditional. It’s actually slightly more lemony than other hummus I’ve had, which was very pleasant.

At this point, my friend Nicole urged us to get a side of their hot sauce (her favorite), so we ordered some to go along with the hummus. I asked our server if he knew what was in it, and he said he didn’t know. In fact, he said, the hot sauce was the only thing that was *not* made in the restaurant itself - it’s made in their central location, and shipped to the restaurants in large containers. He didn’t know what was in it, but implied that it’s more or less a proprietary formula and that the recipe isn’t shared with anyone. So, little detectives that we were, we examined the little plastic container from all angles and tasted it repeatedly to try to figure out what’s in it. We did everything short of breaking out the electron microscope in our investigation. We are pretty sure it’s a puree of vinegar, banana peppers, some other kind of hot pepper, and spices. Definitely no garlic, and probably no cumin. It’s a delightful sauce, very light with a piquant heat-- not overwhelming, just a nice bite. We mixed some into the hummus, and it was brilliant. Make sure you ask for some on the side with whatever you order.

Nicole ordered the Falafel Salad (for the uninitiated - falafel is deep fried chickpea patty, usually containing a spice mix of cumin, coriander, parsley, garlic, and cilantro). She claimed that she *always* orders falafel, whether it be a salad, a roll, or a pita pizza (at Aladdin’s those are called “pitzas”). Her salad looked fresh and filling, consisting of four falafel patties on a bed of mixed greens with cucumbers, scallions, and sliced tomato and some feta cheese and tahini yogurt dressing on the side. The portions are hearty - she took half of it back to the office for later.

I ordered the Baba Falafel Rolled, which is falafel patties, baba ghanoush, greens, tomato, turnips, pickles, and parsley, rolled in a pita. I had ordered this on my previous visit, but I had to have it again because of the baba ghanoush and the pickled veggies. It’s a perfect sandwich, in my opinion. Earthy spices, peppery greens and puckery pickles, all wrapped up in a lightly (but perfectly) grilled pita. Heaven on a plate.

Francesca ordered the Dawali Rolled, stuffed grape leaves topped with feta cheese, tomato, onion, and Aladdin’s dressing, rolled in a pita. Another fine-looking sandwich. And the made-to-order freshness of the food was confirmed, because Francesca asked for the pickled vegetables to be added, which aren’t normally included. Raves all around - “fresh, authentic, and delicious” was the verdict.

We were all impressed with how fresh everything was. Crisp greens, freshly grilled pitas, everything made to order. Their soups are all large, hearty portions, and are adequate as a meal all on their own. And the prices at Aladdin’s are extremely reasonable - you can fill your belly and be satisfied for the rest of the day for between $10-$15.

As we were leaving, we spied the large and tempting dessert case next to the register. Cakes, tortes, baklava, ladyfinger cookies, and more. Not just Middle Eastern desserts here, that’s for sure. We were too full to try anything, but I made myself a promise to take a piece of something sweet home with me the next time I visit.

Which will be very, very soon.

The Takeaway:

● Lots of locations means that there’s probably an Aladdin’s near you. Don’t squander this

● Vegan, vegetarian, and gluten-free friendly. And a flyer on the tables indicated those offerings would be expanded soon.

● Order the pomegrantate green iced tea. Unsweetened, but fragrant and delicious.

● If you’re with a group, don’t be afraid to ask for separate checks - this request is always granted, with a smile.

● Make sure to order a side of hot sauce. Trust me on this.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Waters Park and Chestnut Ridge Park

Akron Empire is excited to welcome guest blogger Tessa Gaffney, a senior at the University of Akron, majoring in Political Science and minoring in Theatre Arts. Last year, she gathered stories about hate, love, and courage from gay Akronites to create the musical revue, Hope Will Never Be Silent, which was performed at The Interbelt Nite Club. She believes in the ability of theatre to spark ideas, change minds, and foster empathy. She wishes to help build a world where art is valued in our education system and unavoidable in our public spaces, starting right here in Akron

Elise Gaffney, who took the photos for this post, graduated from the University of Akron in 2013 with a B.A. in Business and Organizational Communications and a minor in Photography. She recently returned to pursue a B.F.A. in Photography. She discovered Chestnut Ridge only a few years ago while exploring her hometown of Kenmore. Her photography project, “Wasted,” a close look at our throw-away society, was a winner of the 2012 Akron Art Prize. All of her work is based out of neighborhoods in Akron, including Cottage Grove and Firestone Park.

Waters Park and Chestnut Ridge Park
by Tessa Gaffney

The Works Progress Administration provided jobs to millions of unemployed workers during the Depression to carry out public works projects. Almost every community in the United States had a new park, bridge or school constructed by the agency. Akron had three: Chestnut Ridge amphitheater, Waters Park amphitheater, and the Glendale steps.

Chestnut Ridge Park sign as seen from East Avenue

In 1933, Frank Hyde Waters donated his $75,000 property to Summit County for a tuberculosis clinic or to the city of Akron for a public playground—the only stipulation being a monument built on the grounds in memory of his wife, Cora Ann Swift, and their daughter, Mary Waters Sheddon, who had died of tuberculosis. As North Akron only had one park at the time and the county already had adequate medical facilities, Waters Park was established—right off the Y Bridge, across from St. Thomas Hospital. Waters specified the park was to be developed by a civic organization.

Monument at Waters Park in memory of Frank Waters' wife and daughter who died of tuberculosis

Over the years, attempts to maintain a lily pond and a fountain with a statue have failed, but recently efforts to fix up the park have been revitalized by David DiDomenico and the Waters Park Restoration Alliance. They successfully cleared the brush in certain areas, planted flowers, installed bird feeders and benches. Unfortunately, for most of its existence, the stage has served little purpose other than allowing neighborhood children to pretend they are performing to adoring fans or giving speeches to a captivated crowd. 

What if they actually were doing those things? 

In the summer of 1965, classical plays were presented by amateur actors on the Waters Park stage. The Akron Recreation Department brought in a voting booth to serve as a changing room and tin cans punched with holes containing candles lined the stone benches guiding the audience to their seats. About ten years ago, Ingenue Theatre Ensemble led by Suzie Graham of Downtown Akron Partnership, gave kids the opportunity to perform Shakespeare at the amphitheaters at both Waters Park and Chestnut Ridge. 
Nowadays, the columns of the Waters Park amphitheater have begun to crumble and weeds are sprouting in its cracks. But when the weather turns nice, the stage is perfectly framed by tall sunflowers and its charm is undeniable.

Waters Park amphitheater from the front (top) and back (bottom)

The amphitheater at Chestnut Ridge, located off of East Avenue, however, remains in pristine condition. We were unable to find any information on Chestnut Ridge in the Special Collections department of the Akron Summit County Public Library, but through talking to others, we found out that a couple years ago, the Akron Regional Chamber Orchestra sponsored a Clean-Up Day in order to host a concert there. 

Except for these few instances, it seems both amphitheaters have seen little use since their construction.

Chestnut Ridge amphitheater from front (top) and back (bottom)

In addition to the amphitheater, Waters Park also features a stone observation deck cut into the hillside, basketball and shuffleboard courts, and a breathtaking view of the entire city. Slightly smaller, Chestnut Ridge contains a picnic pavilion and playground. In 1982, Don Stephens, the executive director of the Akron Regional Development Board, declared Waters Park a Veterans’ Memorial; nowadays, the only veterans who frequent the park are homeless. Chestnut Ridge has a flagpole presented to the Boy Scouts of America by Leo L. Laney. Just last month, Waters Park tied for second place in Akron Empire’s “Favorite Parks in Akron” poll. Both parks are literally the backyard for some Akron residents.

And yet these stages sit, unused.
The spectacular view of Akron from Waters Park

WPA amphitheaters are standing proof that an era existed in which the government found art important enough to fund it. They are also an homage to open-air theaters in ancient Greece, where going to the theatre was a communal activity that was hard-wired into the social, political, and religious rhythms of the ancient city; the entire city would shut down to watch theatrical festivals that incited discussions about the state of society and questioned authority. They are important historical landmarks that should not only be preserved, but cherished and utilized to their full potential.

Placemaking is a philosophy that encourages the use of a community’s assets, inspiration, and potential to create public spaces that promote people's health, happiness, and well being. It sparks an exciting re-examination of everyday settings. Imagine these forgotten parks as central hubs, filled with sculptures and murals, spontaneous theatre and music, vegetable gardens and flower beds. There could be Saturday brunches and Sunday beer gardens, concerts, contests, and festivals. The possibilities are endless.

EraAir Theatre Company was created to fill the seats and light the stages of these beautiful relics of local history. For more information, please visit our website at, like EraAir Theatre Company on Facebook, or follow @eraairtheatre on Twitter and Instagram.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Half Cleveland at the Akron Civic Theatre

Half Cleveland at the Akron Civic Theatre, Feb. 6th, 2015
by Joanna Wilson

There is snow coming down from a dull gray Akron sky as I write this.  If you're anything like me, it is very easy during this time of year to stay indoors in isolation and do nothing.  But to do that means missing out on the buzz about town: Half Cleveland is playing downtown on Friday, February 6th.  There is limited seating for this seating-on-the-stage show so get your tickets and book the babysitter now.  Let me explain why.

Half Cleveland is not your average rock n' roll band.  Formed in 2003, Half Cleveland's creative core is two guys with a history of making music in Akron.  In the 1970s, Chris Butler and Harvey Gold were members of the seminal art-rock band Tin Huey--a band which casts a lasting legacy in the music scene.  Among their many band credentials, Butler is formerly a member of the Numbers Band and creator of The Waitresses, and Harvey Gold has accomplished numerous recording projects as well as toured with singer/songwriter Sally Spring.  Their impressively long list of musical accomplishments have provided Butler and Gold with the background, street-smarts, and sense of humor required to continue to want to make rock music in the twenty-first century.

Half Cleveland (Nov. 2014) on stage opening for Chrissie Hynde at the Civic.

In a conversation I shared with Harvey last week, we discussed a little about the current state of rock n' roll these days.  We both laughingly agreed that rock is no longer the top of the charts, most popular style of music it once was.  Harvey pointed out that the few artists who do create what they call rock are more likely to be solo performers--and not bands.  And this is where Half Cleveland's experience and sense of humor comes over: they don't care that they're not creating new music to please the latest trends in the music industry.  This lively, brash attitude by Half Cleveland reminds me that rock n' roll isn't defined by cool, youthfulness or decadence alone, but rock does require rebellion.  It sounds to me like Half Cleveland feels it.  Join the on-going conversation about what it is to create rock for contemporary audiences, using #geezerhipster.

Half Cleveland last October at the Beachland Ballroom and Tavern. (Left to right: Gold, Butler, Ethington, McIntosh, and Smith-Cahan.)

Did I mention Half Cleveland has an absurdist sense of humor?  The band's name Half Cleveland suits them for several reasons. The title may have first come to them because Harvey and Chris are essentially half of Tin Huey, and Chris is from Cleveland while Harvey is from Akron.  But the term 'full cleveland' is a descriptor for ultimate nerd fashion trend of wearing a white shoes with a matching white belt. (Believe me, it's a real thing--check the Urban Dictionary.  Or, better yet dig deep and recall the character Herb Tarlek from the TV comedy WKRP in Cincinnati, the radio station's skeevy sales manager with horrible taste.)  With a band name that plays off that kind of hilarious cultural reference, you can figure the band brings a fair amount of that sense of humor to their music as well--and you'd be right.

For the first time, CD copies of "Live at the Wi-Fi Café" will be available for purchase at the Feb 6th gig.

Half Cleveland's creative core may be Butler and Gold, but they round out their performances with an ever-revolving cast of experienced musicians.  On Friday Feb. 6th, Half Cleveland will be Butler, Gold, and Bob Ethington, Friday Mike Wilkinson, and Taylor McIntosh.  This gig supports the recorded efforts of Half Cleveland's "Live at the Wi-Fi Café," a semi-plugged set recorded at Tri-C last year, and Chris Butler's newest solo effort, the critically acclaimed "Easy Life."  The Akron Civic Theatre show on Friday Feb. 6th is coming together through Clone Records--the same indie record label that originally included recordings by Tin Huey, Rubber City Rebels, The Bizarros and other Akron artists.  Not only will Clone Records be selling records at the event but The Bizarros are sharing the stage that night!

Half Cleveland and The Bizarros are playing at the Akron Civic Theatre
on Friday, February 6th, 8pm. 

For more information: the Akron Civic Theatre's website link
Feb. 6th concert Facebook event link

Even if you can't make this concert, follow along with Half Cleveland's adventures on their facebook page.

Friday, January 16, 2015

2014's Most Popular Guest Posts, Part 2

2014's Most Popular Guest Posts, Part 2
by Brit Charek

Earlier in the week, Joanna shared her most popular guest blog posts of 2014. Today, I'm following suit by sharing the five most clicked-through posts by guest bloggers that I worked with last year.

1. 4Cats Art Studio in Kent

This was local photographer and entrepreneur Chris Rutan's first time blogging for Akron Empire, but back in 2013 Joanna wrote about her Etsy store and small business, Rigmarole. She wrote about 4Cats Art Studio, located in Acorn Alley in Kent, which offers a variety of art classes for children and adults. She took her 3-year-old daughter and wrote about her experience.

Chris's daughter, Lydia, posing by her masterpiece.

2. Paranormal Paranoia

Roza Haidet wrote this piece about an art exhibition at the BOX Gallery that she and her twin brother curated. This isn't the first time Roza has blogged for us. Ironically, she wrote about the BOX Gallery and the Artists of Rubber City for Akron Empire in 2013.

Art by Tattoo Artist Cory Schofield
The show was strictly the artwork of tattoo artists, who were asked to create a painting within the theme of "paranormal,"or something that is not explainable by science. Tattoo artists from all over the country entered work in the exhibition, and the results were incredible.

3. An Outsider's Guide to Akron

Chris Horn is a recent Akron transplant from down south, but you wouldn't guess that considering his enthusiasm for our fine city! His newbie guide to Akron is worth the read whether you were born here or you're just visiting.

Inspired by all the awesome he's experienced in Akron, he's launching The Devil Strip, a guide to what's happening in local arts, music, business and culture. You can check it out at for now, and soon it should be in print form as well!

4. 5 Great Hikes

My friend and new guest blogger Jenny Jones beautifully documented five of her favorite hiking spots in the Greater Akron Area. I've been following her adventures on Instagram, and it seems that the winter weather isn't holding her back from her treks in the woods!

5. Sarah's Vineyard & Winery

Jackee Clark is another first time blogger for Akron Empire! Her review of Sarah's Vineyard and Winery made my mouth water. It seems like the perfect place to kill some time (and some fine) with friends.

Thank you to everyone who guest blogged for Akron Empire this year! I can't wait to see what you come up with in 2015.

Are you interested in blogging for us? Here are some tips to get started, and here is a complete list of all our posts written by guest bloggers.

Thanks for a great year, Akron!

Sunday, January 11, 2015

2014's Most Popular Guest Posts

2014's Most Popular Guest Posts
by Joanna Wilson

Akron Empire has always been a way for Brit and I to interact with the greater-Akron community and this means including more voices than our own.  We usually split up the duties of working with guest bloggers.  That's why this is actually only part one in the list of most popular posts written by guest bloggers.  The below list reflects only the writers that worked with me--and later in the week, Brit will announce her list of top five posts of 2014 written by a guest blogger that worked with her.  It's not as complicated as it is to explain it.  We're happy to host a variety of voices about their favorite places, restaurants, bands, events, and experiences in the Empire.  For the complete list of links for past guest bloggers, click HERE.  Interested in guest blogging for us?  Please read the suggestions at this link, and follow the simple instructions.

If you missed last week's posts, Brit and I are looking back over last year's successes before moving on to work in the new year, 2015.  Click HERE to see the list of my most popular blog posts of 2014--and click HERE to see Brit's list of her most popular blog posts of 2014.  How many of these essays did you catch the first time around?

1.  New Store Opening: Birchwood and Pine 
Erica Scheutzow wrote an informative piece about a new brick-and-morter space for local artist Rachel Jernigan and other artists' wares in downtown Canton.  Canton might be slightly out of the Empire, but c'mon, we all go there!  Erica wrote for us several times last year--including an essay about her personal experiences when she was offered the rare opportunity to take a tour of the Goodyear blimp hangar.  Click HERE to read that again.

Ultrasphinx at Annabell's - Photo by Matt Stansberry

2.  Ultrasphinx Album Review
Dominic Caruso wrote about Akron rockers Ultrasphinx and their 2014 self-titled recording last March.  Who are your favorite music makers in the Empire?
Dominic, like Erica Scheutzow (above), guest blogged several times in 2014.  His other piece was a review of his experiences taking the terrarium workshop that was offered during Crafty Mart Summer Faire last July.  I can't wait until the next workshops offered through Crafty Mart.  There's so much to look forward to in 2015.

A fine looking group of people: the Towpath Turtles, Jim Klett 10k race, 2013.

3.  Towpath Turtles and The Ohio Runners Network
Runner and writer Stephani Itibrout shared about her favorite Akron running group the Towpath Turtles, an organization associated with The Ohio Runners Network (TORN).  Looking to join a running group?  Look these people up.  Thanks Stephani!

4.  Akron Art Prize 2014
I'm extremely pleased to see interest in the Akron Art Prize pushed this guest post written by Rob Lehr into one of the top spots of the year.  Which local artist did you vote for in 2014? 

How well do you thrift?

5.  Portage Trail Barn: 5 Steps from Thrift Store to Fashion
Re-purposing items into valuable goods isn't just what Mary Beth Filion does--she also runs a shop called Portage Trail Barn where others sell their handmade and refurbished materials as well.  She knows what she's talking about.  Check out her simple suggestions--and check out the Portage Trail Barn, located in Cuyahoga Falls.

Thanks to all our writers in 2014.  I'm hoping you'll share what you're passionate about with us in 2015 as well.