CANTON, Ohio (WJW) – The City of Canton is prepared to welcome families and visitors downtown this summer with dozens of activities and events planned for Centennial Park and beyond.
With more than 20 participating downtown bars and restaurants, the city was among the first in the state to create not one, but two dedicated outdoor refreshment areas, or DORAs.
One encompasses a large part of the downtown Canton area, the other the growing Pro Football Hall of Fame Village, where people can walk around outdoors with adult beverages in special plastic cups and not be arrested for violating an open container law.
“We have the Italian American fest, we have the Latino Fest, we have an Enrichment Festival coming, the Bluecoats will be down here performing, we have two veterans festivals coming, we have a cigar whiskey fest coming,” said Patrick Wyatt, the Operations Manager for the new Centennial Plaza.
“This is such a beautiful plaza the city built for the community, and there’s nothing like that; you can go anywhere, and we are fortunate to have this. We try to make it family oriented; it’s not just all adults, its family-oriented, but it’s a fine line because you know it is a lot of alcohol in this area being served with the restaurants and in conjunction with the DORA, that’s why they have a DORA so you have to be careful with watching younger kids and stuff,” said Wyatt.
“In the past five years, we have seen a great great deal of structure being built up so our family could come down here, and in the past, we wouldn’t come downtown.
When asked why, Khris Conoly a Canton resident continued.
“It was just riddled with violence. Ever since the recreation has taken over it’s been great, we come down here, and we can let our kids play, we can sit over here and eat and we are having a great time now a safe time,” said Conoly. The Canton resident says he and his wife bring their six children to the plaza frequently.
“We are not too far so we can just walk down here, they can run around the green space, and we can sit and have a drink if we may,” said Shanise Conoly.
But the city council is concerned about any potential disturbance from unsupervised kids.
The city already had an 11:00 pm curfew for all kids under the age of 18.
On Monday city council passed a new ordinance on its first reading changing the curfew to 9 pm within the DORAs.
“They are just being more proactive, I mean, this is a whole new thing for everybody and new things create other problems as you well know and they just want to be ahead of the game and safety for all people involved including the younger generation,” said Wyatt.
The ordinance would exempt kids who are with their families or organized groups, like a school outing.
It would also exempt teens who are there for work on running an emergency errand.
Police on Tuesday were not available to talk about what challenges they have previously faced with unsupervised kids within the DORAs.
The new ordinance would give officers the authority to kick kids in violation of the curfew out of the areas after 9:00 p.m. or cite them with “unruliness.”
It would also allow the officers to charge their parents with a minor misdemeanor.
“Kids come down here and cause issues so by the 9:00 curfew being in place I agree with it I wholeheartedly stand by it and our law enforcement needs it,” said Khris Conoly.
“We have three boys we have one in high school, two going to high school, anything after 9:00 nothing good is happening, so if your kid can’t be supervised after 9 pm that’s a problem,” he added.
The new curfew goes into effect in 30 days.