YOUNGSTOWN CityFest is back in town

Drawing families and younger people is one goal.
YOUNGSTOWN -- The games and rides will be there, just like before. So will the food vendors and music on Federal Plaza downtown.
After a two-year absence, CityFest is back and very much the same as it had been for 15 years.
Only more concerted efforts to draw younger people and families differentiate CityFest 2001, which runs Friday through Sunday, from its predecessors.
"It's so similar because it was so successful," said Tamica D. Green, who is coordinating the event as the city's federal plaza director. "Apparently, it's something people missed. They're calling and calling."
CityFest, sponsored by area businesses, started in 1984 and some years drew tens of thousands of people downtown for the four-day festival.
Attendance slipped in the 1990s amid complaints of rowdiness. However, the main reason the festival didn't take place in 1999 and 2000 is that the plaza director's job went unfilled after Claire Maluso left.
City council hired Green in December 2000 and she found that returning CityFest was a top priority. Organizing started in February.
Workers: About 50 people have volunteered to help besides the seven-member organizing committee. Local businesses have been supportive with donations.
"It's not that the people aren't interested or don't care," Green said. "There's a lot of interested and caring people looking out for downtown's future."
Restoring a city tradition is important after watching community events, such as parades, car shows and other festivals, disappear or move to the suburbs, she said.
"So many different things have been taken from the city," Green said. "People want more family oriented affairs."
To do that, this year's festival will include a petting zoo, pony rides and the Little Miss CityFest contest. Girls ages 8 to 11 will be judged on their knowledge of Youngstown trivia and in a hula hoop contest.
To draw people in their 30s and 40s, the music will be more diverse than previous festivals. This year bands range from funk, jazz and R & amp;B to dance and Top 40.
Before, the music leaned toward an older audience. Senior citizens will hear music for them, Green said, but diversity is needed to address the younger generations.
"I tried to fill in those blanks," she said.
There will be 10 to 12 rides for kids, some of which their parents can ride, too. There will be 12 to 15 food vendors and 20 other novelty vendors.
Keeping quiet: Green won't talk about how many people she hopes this year's festival draws. The goal is to bring a cross-section of area residents downtown to have a good time, she said.
She pledges that security will be plentiful to address the common view that safety downtown is an issue. That's slowly changing, anyway, she said, pointing to July 4.
In July about 3,500 people turned out to watch a fireworks display downtown, up substantially from the usual crowd of about 1,500.
"It's all about altering the perception of downtown," she said.

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