YOUNGSTOWN Downtown buzzing with activity

Parties, concerts and festivals have filled downtown's summer calendar.
YOUNGSTOWN -- One of Tamica Green's main goals has been to make sure people were coming downtown for some event every weekend, all summer. She has accomplished that in her second summer as the city's Federal Plaza director.
Today's annual Memorial Day parade at 10 a.m., along Rayen and Wick Avenues to the plaza, marks the unofficial start to a busier than usual summer downtown.
Each weekend through mid-September, there is a business- or city-sponsored event scheduled either on the plaza or somewhere nearby in the downtown.
"Downtown should be the hub of the city," she said. "It's a beautiful area and it goes unused so often."
But not this year. Green approached downtown businesses last year about using the plaza more.
Full schedule
The results are enough parties, concerts and city-sponsored festivals to fill the calendar.
Several restaurants are offering concerts or theme nights in addition to the Party on the Plaza music events that the BW-3 restaurant has organized since 1996.
A main addition on the city's part will be a rib cook-off and music festival over the July 4 weekend.
There will be a parade at noon on the holiday and fireworks in the evening. In between, ribs and other food vendors will be joined on the plaza by music and dance troupes. The festival will run from July 4 through the long weekend.
"It's time our city has events of this nature," Green said.
The theme will be celebrating the city's proud past and promising future. There seems to be a split in the generations between older residents who focus on the region's history and younger who are looking past that to a new future, Green said.
There's no reason not to celebrate both viewpoints, she said.
CityFest, the city-sponsored festival that returned last summer after a few years' absence, is on the schedule, too.
The pioneer for recent downtown events is glad to see such a full schedule.
"The more events, the better for everybody," said Alan Drennen, regional manager for BW-3. "I'm just glad we're a part of it."
The goal for his and other events is to create people traffic downtown that translates into customers, so regular draws help everybody, he said.
Special events
One special event this summer will feature the Tom Joyner radio show at the end of August.
The popular national radio show with a black following mixes entertainment and advocacy, especially voter registration. The Joyner show's cast and crew goes on the road more than two dozen times a year to do a morning broadcast before a live audience that draws thousands of spectators.
There will be a Joyner party on the plaza Aug. 29 and the broadcast is Aug. 30 inside Powers Auditorium.
Another special event, far more somber, follows a few weeks later. Green is organizing a service at noon on the plaza to mark the one-year anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Three days after the attacks, thousands of downtown workers gathered for a service.
"I don't think we can let 9/11 pass without remembering our heroes," she said. "There was such an impact on all of our lives."

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