Walk and Play Through Portage County

By Jason Brill

Meet the alpacas at Pure Passions Farm. All photos by Laura Watilo Blake unless otherwise noted.

Walking a mile in someone’s shoes to understand them is pretty good advice. It’s also a great way to experience the people that make places such as Portage County so special. Whether it’s dancing along with German Family Society of Akron volunteer Carri Sensius or dodging mud with Pure Passions Farm owner Scott Westerberg, exploring Portage County via these six peoples’ shoes is worth the walk.

Hear more about the people that make Portage County what it is below and on our website.


Meet Scott Hutchinson of Guido’s Restaurant

Scott Hutchinson may have grown out of the shoes he wore when slinging pizza as a teenager at Guido’s Restaurant, but his shoes still see plenty of action at the spot his family has owned since it opened in 1966. Hutchinson, who is now general manager at the Italian restaurant, can be found working the pizza oven or out in the dining room talking with customers.

“I love slinging pies,” Hutchinson says. “It brings me back 25 years when I was learning how to run that oven. I know that when I’m on the oven, a better pie cannot go out the door.”

While Guido’s pizzas are a must try, especially with Hutchinson running the show, the family-friendly spot is also well known for its saucy, layered lasagna, which was named the best in the greater Cleveland area by Cleveland.com.

“It’s really humbling to know that little Guido’s in Ravenna, Ohio, can pull that off,” Hutchinson says of the lasagna honor. “We’ve just been doing what we know works. And we stick as absolutely close to those recipes as we could over the years.”


When Hutchinson and his family go out to eat, they usually opt for family-run spots like their own. One of their favorites is Ravenna’s Dos Coronas Mexican restaurant, which features classics such as burritos, enchiladas, margaritas and more.


Meet Jennifer Hermann of Bell Tower Brewing Co.

Jennifer Hermann’s shoes have a sudsy front row seat to the magic that happens when grains, hops, yeast and water come together to make beer. The head brewer at Bell Tower Brewing Co. in Kent, Hermann has been brewing beer since 1998, when she started out as a home brewer. She’s still fascinated by the fermentation of it all.

“Fermentation is just a super neat, vigorous activity,” she says. “A lot of my job revolves around making sure that I have the proper environment for yeast to grow and thrive and multiply and ferment into a beer that’s not only pleasing to the eye but also pleasing to the palate.”

And no matter the palate, Bell Tower has plenty of varieties to please anyone such as the Revival Rye rye beer or the refreshing Burnin’ Bell cream ale that all go along with the former church turned brew pub’s food menu of sandwiches, shareables and more.

“I’m not a trendy brewer,” says Hermann, who’s also a certified beer judge. “I’m very interested in food friendly beer. So, you will find a lovely mixture of German styles, American styles and Belgian styles.”


When she has free time, Hermann loves getting out in nature and takes friends and family along as much as possible. One of her favorite jaunts is Franklin Mills Riveredge Park in downtown Kent, a river walk-style park that follows the Cuyahoga River.


Meet Carri Sensius with German Family Society

Carri Sensius’ shoes do it all when she serves as vice president of the German Family Society of Akron, which she’s been a part of for more than 20 years. Most mornings during events such as the society’s annual Oktoberfest, Sensius’ shoes might be dodging errant potato peels while she helps prepare authentic German dishes such as potato salad, sauerkraut, sausage, cabbage rolls or black forest cake for the festivities. Everything served is homemade.

Later in the day, her shoes change to take part in traditional German dances full of lots of twirls, all set to toe-tapping music.

For Sensius, it’s all part of providing an authentic experience for visitors, family and friends who come to the society, which hosts a variety of events in Kent throughout the year, such as Vienna Night, featuring plenty of Viennese Waltz dancing and traditional Austrian food.

“Places like the German Family Society of Akron were a way that immigrants got together to keep their heritage alive, keep a piece of their homeland and what they learned from their ancestors, and they brought that to the United States,” Sensius says. “And so that’s what we’re trying to continue to do.”


Sensius loves heading to downtown Kent’s Acorn Alley for shopping and dining. One of her favorite spots there is Popped!, a popcorn shop featuring varieties such as kettle corn, caramel popcorn and a spicy version called Baja Ohio Popcorn.

Scott Westberg feeds his alpacas at Pure Passions.


Meet Scott Westberg of Pure Passions Farm

Most days, Scott Westberg’s shoes dodge hay, mud and, yes, poop. Such is the day-in day-out life of owning an alpaca farm. Pure Passions Farm, which Westberg owns with his wife, Sigga, opened in 2022 with the promise of introducing people to the cuddly, calm and sweet alpacas Westberg first fell in love with after working with them on a farm years ago.

“Almost everyone I’ve encountered that has spent time with alpacas has kind of fallen in love with them,” says Westberg, an animal lover who was drawn to the hypoallergenic alpacas after suffering through allergies to many other critters. “It’s something about their calming demeanor, their big eyes and they have a smaller size — kind of like a big dog. If you spend time with them, you fall for them.”

Pure Passions Farm spreads the love through a variety of programs. You can rent out the farm for birthday parties, stop by for weekly yoga with alpacas and goats (which is way more zen than it sounds), paint and sip events (surrounded by alpacas, of course) and more. It’s all a very cute reminder of Portage County’s agrarian roots.

“We’re a working farm,” says Westberg. “We’re up to 43 alpacas and 18 goats. So that’s a lot of poop. But we actually save a lot of it and sell it to people that have gardens or house plants because it is one of the best fertilizers.”


When he’s not working on the farm, Westberg takes friends and family to Streetsboro’s Chuggers Bar & Grille, which features a menu of comforting bar food classics, live music and more.

See all kinds of feet in action at Pure Passions.


Meet Mike Studeny of Wingfoot Lake State Park

A single day for Mike Studeny, park manager at Wingfoot Lake State Park in Mogadore, could involve everything from office tasks such as balancing budgets and reviewing staffing needs to mowing the grass or cleaning public restrooms.

“I would classify my shoes as all-terrain,” says Studeny, who also manages Portage Lakes State Park in Akron. “We’re working on a project right now, reclaiming a pond, so it’s dirty and muddy. But I also meet with fire chiefs and the sheriff’s office and folks from the libraries.”

Wingfoot Lake State Park’s close to 600 acres includes a nearly 2-mile park loop trail and a .4-mile storybook trail, plus a nature center, kayaking, paddle boats and disc golf. The park is named after Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co.’s iconic winged foot logo. Goodyear bought the parkland in 1916 when it began building airships nearby. Wingfoot became a state park in 2009. Every year, an estimated 500,000 people visit the park.

One point of pride for Studeny is a new ADA-accessible kayak launch that was made possible thanks to a partnership with Goodyear. “This was one of my dreams,” Studeny says. “This allows anybody to be able to access the water.”


When he’s not busy keeping the parks looking beautiful, Studeny likes to visit Mike’s Place Restaurant in Kent. The lively spot features an extensive menu of American classics and all-day breakfast.


Explore & Play

Check out more things to see & do

Food & Drink

Find ways to fill your plate & glass

Events Calendar

Plan your trip around fun festivals & events

Ohio Tourism logo
Central Portage VCB logo 2023