All eyes will be on the city of Youngstown this weekend as CityFest 2001 kicks off Friday, marking the return of an event that was held for 15 years, but then was discontinued two years ago. The three-day celebration will give Youngstown an opportunity to put its best foot forward, thereby erasing whatever negative perceptions some residents and non-residents have about the downtown area.
Arena: Mayor George M. McKelvey, members of city council and the individuals and groups involved in the revitalization of the central business district must realize that the success of CityFest 2001 will go a long way toward silencing the naysayers, who have been especially vocal about the federal government's decision to allocate $26.8 million for a convocation center downtown. The main feature of the center would be a sports arena designed for indoor hockey and arena football.
On the other hand, if the party on Federal Plaza falls victim to the type of rowdiness that disrupted previous parties and if attendees feel unsafe, then the city will have a difficult time persuading its own residents and suburbanites that coming downtown for any activities, especially at night, is not worth the time or effort.
The organizers of CityFest 2001, led by Tamica D. Green, director of Federal Plaza, have focused on making this a family affair, with a petting zoo, pony rides and the Little Miss CityFest among the featured attractions. But they also recognize that having people in their 30s and 40s would add to the success of the event, so they have scheduled bands that play funk, jazz and R & amp;B.
Fireworks: "It's all about altering the perception of downtown," Green says, noting that in July about 3,500 gathered downtown to watch a fireworks display.
To her credit, the Federal Plaza director doesn't duck the issue of safety. There will be plenty of security, she says.
It may be unfair for Youngstown's downtown area to be stigmatized the way it has been, but rather than being defensive about it, city officials should do whatever is necessary to prove the detractors wrong.