Event Spotlight: Akron Pizza Fest

Akron Pizza Fest | 200 S. Main St. | Akron, OH

Lock 3 played host to the inaugural Akron Pizza Fest. Photo: akronpizzafest.com

Where oh where have my summer festivals gone? Taste of Legacy Village is no more. Taste of Hudson is defunct. What could possibly fill the void? The answer—the inaugural Akron Pizza Fest at Lock 3, located next to the Akron Civic Theatre on Main Street in downtown Akron. A partnership between the city and Lock 3—the city’s premier outdoor venue and park—the event, held this past weekend, was a three-day food and music festival that featured 10 pizzerias, live bands, cornhole, pizza eating contests and kids activities.

In search of Labor Day weekend fun, my mom, wife and I headed to Akron to indulge in pizza. And indulge we did. Kudos to the festival’s organizers—this was an outstanding event that should serve as a model for other groups who host community events. (I’m looking at you Taste of Tremont and Taste of Lakewood.)

Lock 3 features plenty of green space.

The festival was well-run, organized and easy to navigate. For starters, parking was free, plentiful and near Lock 3. Besides street meters, festival goers could park at the Summit County Parking Deck on High Street, the O’Neil’s Parking Deck on State Street, the Cascade Parking Facility off Mill Street and in surface lots on West Bowery Street.

Akron Pizza Fest was affordable. Admission was free for all guests Friday. On Saturday and Sunday, the entry fee was $5 for adults, $3 for college students, $2 for kids ages 13 – 17 and free for anyone under 12 years old. That said, I think you all know me by now—I’m always looking for a deal. (This is a blog primarily about happy hours, after all!) Lo and behold, I found one. The event’s website featured a buy one adult admission, get one free pass. So, entry for three people was just $10. Even better, credit cards were accepted at the admission tent and by all vendors.

Pizza, beer, music, inflatables and blue skies. Does it get any better?

Another nice feature—convenience. In addition to an air-conditioned dining hall, Lock 3 featured lots of picnic tables, stand-up tables and umbrella tables. There were also indoor restrooms and a row of clean porta potties.

Food and beverage prices inside the festival were reasonable. Individual pizza slices cost $4, whole pizzas were $12 and desserts ranged from $2 – $6. Sixteen-ounce draft beers (Thirsty Dog varieties, Miller Lite and Molson) cost $4 – $5 while mixed drinks were $6.

The food vendors at the event were as follows: Jet’s Pizza, Scott’s Fire & Ice Catering, Dewey’s, Upper Crust, DiLauro’s Pizzeria, Lorenzo’s Pizzeria, Gionino’s Pizzeria, Corbo’s and The Ice Cream Kartel. Together we sampled pizza from Upper Crust, DiLauro’s, Scott’s Fire & Ice and Lorenzo’s. Upper Crust featured thick dough, while the other three employed a wood-fired thin crust. My favorite was Lorenzo’s—a flavorful, expertly charred slice topped with fresh pepperoni, complemented by drizzles of hot honey. It was so good, in fact, that I was bombarded by bees who apparently wanted to see what all the fuss was about.

As my grandma used to say, always save room for dessert. My mom and wife did just that, sampling a cassata cake and cannoli, respectively, from Corbo’s. As expected, both were delicious. They were fresh, flavorful and mouthwatering.

Always save room for dessert.

An assortment of bands appeared throughout the weekend. Nate Lupi and Lotus Land took the stage Friday. Saturday featured Bad JuJu, Diamond Kites, Back in Time and Simply Queen. Gen X, Crusin’ and The Mighty Smithtones appeared Sunday. Props to Gen X, who took the stage during my visit. Playing hits from 90s alternative bands like Bush and Weezer, I was transported back to my middle school days. Added bonus: The stage was in perfect proximity to the food/vendor stands, allowing the music to serve as a nice accompaniment to the event (as opposed to an overpowering distraction).

There was more to the festival than just food, beer and music. Free-to-play cornhole was popular with guests. Kids enjoyed inflatable bounce houses, slides and paintballing. Retail tents sold 3D layered art, personalized T-shirts, banners, coasters and sports paraphernalia. My favorite retailer was Publish Ohio, which featured vintage Cleveland memorabilia, including magnificent prints of the city from the 1950s.

I’d be remiss without mentioning safety. There was a healthy—but not overbearing—police presence at the event.

Bravo Akron. Bravo Lock 3. Festival organizers take note—this is how you put on a large-scale community event. I hope Akron Pizza Fest becomes a Northeast Ohio tradition for many years to come. Cheers!

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