YOUNGSTOWN Parade brings festive air to city

The events are geared toward families and those people who haven't been downtown in ages.
YOUNGSTOWN -- The venerable downtown holiday parade, missing for years in the city, is making a comeback.
The city is organizing a series of events for next week -- including a parade -- meant to bring back fond memories of Christmas past.
The Winter Wonderland Holiday Spectacular on Dec. 1, however, won't seek a return to the days when department stores put on flashy shows, said Tamica Green, the city's Federal Plaza director.
Rather, the event is aimed at remembering the past without getting stuck in it, she said.
"We're not trying to go back to the 1960s or 1980s," Green said. "If we can hold on to the good parts ... that's the idea."
The events are geared toward giving today's families activities they can enjoy together that also might bring people downtown who haven't been there in ages, she said.
She hopes to draw hundreds of people and create a new tradition.
Schedule: The holiday celebration will start with the parade at 4 p.m. Floats and performers will gather on Rayen Avenue between Belmont and Fifth avenues.
The parade will move along Fifth Avenue, turn left onto Commerce Street and continue to Market Street. A right turn will take the parade to the finish at Front Street and the Mahoning County Courthouse.
More than 50 groups will participate. They include downtown businesses, the Plazateers Marching Band and several other school bands, the Harambee Dance Troupe, the Rebecca Williams Drill Team, Girl Scout groups and others.
Naturally, Santa and his elves will be a main attraction, as will their nemesis, the Grinch.
The grand marshals are Police Chief Richard Lewis, Fire Chief John J. O'Neill Jr. and Councilman Artis Gillam Sr., D-1st, whose ward includes downtown.
LaCheryl Tucker and Vince Bevacqua of WYTV News Channel 33 will be the announcers.
The city is seeking others to join the parade. Any marching band or other music group, veterans group, civic organization, business or student organization interested can sign up through Tuesday by calling the Federal Plaza office at (330) 743-5702.
Children's events: After the half-hour parade, children will light the city's Christmas tree on the plaza.
For the kids, a snack with Santa at the Realty Building follows the tree lighting. Children can have their pictures taken with St. Nick for a small fee. Carriage rides downtown also will be available for a small fee.
The parade has a $2,200 budget, with most of the costs absorbed through donations or sponsors.
The trimmings: Decorations made by pupils at 13 city elementary schools will adorn downtown buildings.
Downtown will be more decorated otherwise, too.
Bows and garland that draped the plaza years ago will make a comeback, Green said. White lights that usually dot trees in the plaza will be expanded across downtown, too, she said.
In the past: Downtown department stores organized parades for decades through the 1980s, but those holiday celebrations faded.
The city had a breakfast with Santa for kids and the downtown Christmas tree lighting in recent years, but nothing on the scale of a parade. The city last had those events during the 1997 holiday season.
People constantly reminded Green when she started her job a year ago that a holiday event was a downtown mainstay.
That desire has only grown stronger since Sept. 11, as the nation bands together and people seek a sense of closeness and community, Green said.
"People wanted to see more parades in the city," she said. "We thought we'd try this and see how it goes."

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