Wednesday, July 30, 2008

do more . . . be more

Stories are all throughout the local media this week about a new effort led by the Youngstown ice cream favorite Handel's (as featured in the Fine-Tune movie).

The Youngstown Diaspora can connect to Handel's through its 24 locations in Ohio, 4 locations in Pennsylvania, 2 locations in Indiana, 2 locations in Virginia, and 1 location in California.

A new local foundation has been set up, Youngstown's All Heart, to support those in need in the Mahoning Valley - starting with efforts to assist Joe Kaluza, who is now paralyzed from the neck down after a staged robbery.

from an article in the Youngstown Vindicator:
“Handel’s is a Youngstown institution, so I said, ‘We have to help,’” said Fisher, who decided to make Kaluza the first benefactor of efforts by the foundation.

A new flavor of ice cream, appropriately called “Youngstown’s All Heart,” will be available Friday at all local Handel’s locations.

Youngstown’s All Heart is vanilla ice cream with raspberry ripple and raspberry-filled chocolate hearts.

A portion of every purchase of a pint or a quart of any flavor of ice cream will go toward Kaluza’s medical bills.

The Youngstown’s All Heart foundation is also funded by the sale of red message bracelets for $2. They are inscribed: “Do more ... be more.”

“This isn’t just about Joe, it’s about everyone in Youngstown,” said Fisher.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

new downtown farmers' market a big hit

every Tuesday for the rest of the summer (that is, till the end of September) in downtown youngstown's central square, there will be a farmers' market of fresh LOCAL produce from 3pm to 6pm.

Last week's event survived the "great deluge of 2008" as the sellers kept selling after a momentary, but powerful storm. (pictures from here)

(note: all shots of produce are from locally grown and owned Ron's Greenhouse.)

In addition to the freshy fresh vegetables and fruits, attendees will be able to:
- purchase baked goods from local artisans
- register to vote
- pick up recipes
- learn of upcoming community events

The vendors of the downtown market even accept WIC coupons, enabling the Mahoning Valley's lower income families to purchase fresh produce and baked goods.

Also, because the extremely useful WRTA bus system exists, the people of the Mahoning Valley can use the buses to save gas and travel from neighborhoods in the city and first-ring suburbs to the downtown to shop.

Since the market runs until 6pm, all downtown workers can stop by on their way home and get some of the good stuff to enjoy later that evening.

The July 29th event this week will include a few comments by Mayor Jay Williams and the individuals who worked together to make this endeavor a reality.

The Tuesday markets join the already successful Saturday morning north side farmers' market, which is held on the eastern edge of Wick Park on the grounds of Youngstown's First Unitarian Universalist church from 9am to 12pm.

For more information on both the Tuesday and Saturday markets, contact Jim Converse at 330-518-6971

and you can continue to sign up for weekly free emails for all of these ongoing downtown events (like the free outdoor James Bond movie monday night and the no-cover downtown Italian Festival this weekend) found here, exclusively at

Friday, July 25, 2008

more on morra, and much more downtown

I received a question via email about the word morra, which has appeared in two posts over the past two weeks.

"morra" is a word in the italian language referring to a game played throughout europe - where opponents suddenly choose reveal a certain number of fingers, and depending on the combination of the total fingers cast and calling out, points/wins are awarded.

In France, the game is known as la mourre.

In China, it's name is hua quan.

Explanation and examples in Spanish here.

so while it may be a little difficult to describe, perhaps the best option is to see the game in action:

You'll be able to see more morra downtown this weekend at the Our Lady of Mount Carmel church festival, running Thursday though Sunday. Expect somewhere around 12,000 people to be there, if last year's estimates hold true this year.

There will be a parade on Sunday, a morra tournament, and more can be found here. Free parking in several lots downtown and shuttles will be transporting people back and forth.

other winners downtown this weekend:
  • Friday's Cafe Cimmento Wine/Jazz/Street Festival on E. Boardman Street

  • Saturday's Farmers Market at the east side of Wick Park

  • Saturday's Youngstown Rocks the Arts festival from 3pm to 11pm. (now with open-air tatoos and bbq from The Oaks) more info on the day's events here.

  • Saturday's two outdoor versions of The Stage

  • Saturday's afl2 match against Green Bay at the Chevy Center

  • live music at at least seven bars downtown

Thursday, July 24, 2008

the return of the baby doll dance

In 1929, the Mount Carmel Band in Lowellville performed for the first time.

In 2008, about 80 years after its start, the band performed at the most recent celebration of the Baby Doll Dance over the weekend.

And now, 80 years later, one of the original members of the 1929 band (now in his 90s) is still playing with today's band.


here, in all its wonder, in one of the greatest of the Youngstown region's traditions, the Baby Doll Dance in Lowellville:

Hundreds and hundreds of people gather around the dancing figure, with the Mt. Carmel Band playing on the elevated platform.

The fireworks are attached to the arms of the woman, and as they go off - one by one - it represents the cleansing of the body.

And at the end, more fireworks shoot from the head up into the sky.

peering around the rest of the Mount Carmel Festival . . .

a vigil with candels:

fresh squeezed lemonade and an errant finger by sissy:

a classic DiRusso's sausage with pepperocini:

the train crossing:

the band:

the stands at the bocce matches:

a nice roll:

this post is getting long so i'll cut out my videos of the games, the rides, the gambling, the fireworks, and the morra.

see you next year.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

youngstown gets fine-tuned

The canvas that is the city of Youngstown continues to be altered by a new generation of artists.

And one of these artists, filmmaker and director Chris Rutushin, will be unveiling his latest effort in downtown Youngstown this Saturday: the world premiere of Fine-Tune the movie.

Chris left Youngstown to attend school at Ohio University, and got his start at NBC's Today Show. Working in the news business, he eventually left New York and made it over to Las Vegas where he earned an Emmy for his work in photojournalism and videography.

But Chris has since returned to Youngstown, and is currently a resident of downtown.

From a story at
"he began filming the movie in July 2005 and most of it was shot at a house near Lanterman’s Mill on Canfield Road. Scenes of the movie were also filmed at the original Handel’s, The Royal Oaks, Oak Hill Cemetery and Mill Creek Park, he said.

“I’m very happy to shoot a film in my hometown,” he said. “You can’t recreate Youngstown. There’s a certain way people are and there’s a certain look to the buildings... I like the realness of this town.”
One of the trailers for the film can be see here:

with a music video shot in downtown and at The Oaks here:

The movie is set in 1970s Youngstown, as a young couple moves back into the city from afar after a death in the family.

It's amazing . . . even in the 70s, people got their pictures taken at the Fellows Riverside Gardens:

even the cookie table (more here and here) has a 70s-esque style to it:

After the 7 pm private showing at the DeYor Center downtown, there will be a post-party open to the public at Cedars Lounge on Hazel Street.

Another one of Chris' recent projects was a stunning video shot around town for the singer Matt Palka.

very cool.

for more information, visit

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

to be strong again

PolicyLink, a national non-profit research organization, today released a new report: To Be Strong Again: Renewing the Promise in Smaller Industrial Cities.

Click here to read an advance copy (5.1 MB pdf).

While a full synthesis of the report will be posted on this blog soon, the authors identify 151 smaller U.S. cities with an industrial heritage as its focus.

In the report's conclusions, both the Youngstown 2010 plan and the Youngstown Business Incubator were identified as best practices for other cities to emulate.

Today's Youngstown Vindicator has an article on the story behind the report:
Visits to Youngstown by officials with PolicyLink inspired the national public policy organization to conduct the study, said Radhika Fox, its associate director who wrote the report.

“The image of Youngstown is steel mills that are closed, nothing is going on and it’s a dying economy,” she said. “But when I was there, I saw a lot of exciting work happening. We were inspired by what we saw in Youngstown.”
more to come . . .

Monday, July 21, 2008

this is my hometown . . . (1944)

this little gem was posted on youtube tonight:

Friday, July 18, 2008

braddock's unsmoke systems

Our friends and cohorts in Braddock PA are launching a new arts and cultural venue this saturday, July 19th.

The urban frontier. Exciting stuff.
Check it out.


Our liminal brethren's (thanks jim) event along the Monongahela is free and open to the public.

6:30pm-7:30pm / screening of movie
8:00pm-10:00pm / exhibition opening
10:00pm onward / afterparty with live music and DJs

why Out of This Furnace?

it was required reading for me in school, this novel set in Braddock.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

it's time for the annual baby doll dance

The eastern city limits of Youngstown are about 2 miles from the Ohio-Pennsylvania border.

But just before the Mahoning River flows into the Keystone State, the valley narrows dramatically at the village of Lowellville Ohio, a community of about 1,300 residents.

And thanks to the people of Lowellville, the Youngstown region celebrates one of it's most unique traditions:

the annual baby doll dance

Held at 11pm [note: I've seen 10:30pm on another site] on wednesday, thursday and friday of this week, the band plays music and the figure inside the costume dances around - but with fireworks attached to the outfit. (photos courtesy of this flickr account)

The baby doll dance is the culmination of the festivities already filled with good food and music, held just south of Carcheddi's and the river at the Mount Carmel Hall. (over the green bridge and just before you head up the uber-steep hill towards Poland)

At 11pm on Saturday is a fireworks show by Zambelli which is just an awesome experience cause the narrow valley makes it kinda like an echo chamber.

Italian music is playing Web to Saturday from 9pm to 11pm, along with a Mora Tournament, a Bocce Tournament, and wine tasting.

Here is the only video of the Baby Doll Dance I could find, this one from Aliquippa, PA.

another great local tradition.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

this city is percolating

two recent blogs at the valley24 site got me thinking the energy in this town is rising, and the subtle signs of "la fenice d'acciaio" is getting stronger:

Karen writes about the spontaneous tuesday concert and great turnout on her north side front porch concluding with the Chicago musician Lord of the Yum Yum. (video included)
"We had them start out in the living room to "contain" the noise as to not "disturb" the entire northside of Youngstown. The crowd gathered outside to mingle in the much roomier yardspace. Dozens of six packs arrived in the hands of old friends, curious neighbors and various Ytown band folk (of Posture Coach and Gil Mantera that I saw) all came to witness this wondrously strange combination of porch and performance."
Rob responds to an email from someone considering a move to the Valley"
"I like to think of this area as a blank slate. A frontier. Some amazing things are going on to revitalize the downtown area and I know many members of the LGBT community who are front and center. We could certainly use your help if you are up for it. It is a very exciting time."

"After college, most of my friends moved to New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles to join the thousands and thousands of big city performing artists competing for work. I made the choice to stay home and create my own opportunities...and I have never regretted that decision."
also, 360 people showed up for last night's outdoor free viewing of King Kong downtown.

free movies at 9pm every monday for several weeks.
more details at the website.

let's break the 500 person mark next monday.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

youngstown homes and long-term value: double the house for half the price

UPDATE: photo collection of north side homes in youngstown here.

UPDATE: interesting op-ed published today in the Business-Journal on the topic. The debate continues:
"... participation in the program by Niles, Warren and other government entities represents some of the worst public policy we’ve seen locally in years. And we’ve had an arena-side seat at some of the worst.

The Regional Chamber’s decision to accept a donation from the Cafaro Foundation to write another $250 check to eligible autoworkers also is bad policy. The chamber’s participation – and public trumpetting of the incentives – contradicts its mission to promote regional economic development by steering new residents to buy homes in Trumbull County but not in the other counties that the chamber also represents."

"Ultimately, however, the program smacks of unfairness – picking a select class of workers to benefit. Are the hundreds of workers a large employer might occasionally bring to this area more deserving than the employees – whether handfuls or dozens – added regularly by smaller businesses?"
read more of their perspectives here.

- - -

Today it was announced financial incentives would be given to GM employees relocating into certain jurisdictions within one of the counties in the five-county Mahoning/Shenango Valley metro region.

Described here, the Eastwood Mall is giving $250 in cash to anyone moving into Trumbull County (other malls are in the non-trumbull counties), with another $250 from the Cafaro Corporation (who owns the eastwood mall). An additional $500 tax deduction could also be taken if the third-shift factory workers decide to live in either the cities of Warren or Niles.

So while this post won't delve into the larger philosophical argument of using financial incentives to pit jurisdiction against jurisdiction, I would also encourage any individual of family considering a move to the Mahoning Valley to check out the city of Youngstown as well.

While in six months you may have a couple hundred in your pocket, in Youngstown you could every often get double the home for half the price.

The Youngstown metro market is a simple case of economic supply and demand.

A region with a shrinking population = more chances to live in houses which in other markets would be ridiculously expensive.

I ride my bike though Youngstown's neighborhoods all the time and the quality and craftsmanship in these houses are unbelievable.

Stone. Brick. Stained Wood. Arches. Pillars.

Here are some photos from the neighborhoods of North Heights and 5th Avenue on the north side, Boulevard Park and Handel's on the south side, etc.

I know people who have lately moved into the city after relocating from other places in the U.S., and they are just amazed at the quality of houses (and the vibe of the neighborhood) which they are able to afford. Other cities did not provide the same opportunities.

- - -

But, setting apart the material wealth of the city's housing stock, it's the people that really make neighborhoods valuable in addition to the homes.

For that additional reason, I choose Youngstown.

If you want to become a part of one of the beautiful neighborhoods in the city, then welcome in. Especially if you want to be a part of a passionate community who feels their better days are still ahead of them.

I can walk to the rose gardens in the city everyday.
I can walk to campus and listen to jazz concerts.
I can bike to the Chevy Center for events.
I can walk to downtown and eat at the restaurants.
I can stroll though our beloved and enormous Mill Creek Park every single day in the city, taking a different path each time:

So while a couple hundred bucks in the pocket would be nice, an ever sweeter deal is surrounding yourself with both physical beauty and good people.

I choose Youngstown.

Thousands others choose Youngstown.

care to join us in our city?

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

happy 4th from downtown youngstown

a few videos from thursday evening...

from the first ever downtown dash, reviews here, here and here.

wow, was it packed this weekend downtown.

at the Stone, for example: