The balmy weather made for a good day for celebrations, organized and otherwise.
BOARDMAN -- On a made-to-order summer Sunday, Boardman residents gathered in Township Park for a joint celebration of the nation's 229th birthday and Boardman's 200th.
The day was billed as the highlight of Boardman's bicentennial observance, but park visitors used the day for a variety of occasions or just to enjoy a day in the sunshine as the temperature climbed to a balmy high of 82 degrees.
In one of the park's pavilions, the family of Hubbard native Anthony Balestrino had gathered to celebrate his July 4 birthday a day early. He turns 88 today.
Balestrino and his wife, Virginia, now live in Conneaut.
We're trying to get them to move back," said son-in-law Eric Hagberg, a Boardman physician who resides in Brookfield.
The family, which includes 22 grandchildren, is spread out from Youngstown to Michigan and New Jersey.
"I always told them when they were big enough to leave, they should take off and be on their own," Balestrino said.
Nearby, about 50 people -- and a couple of romping dogs -- were coming back home, too, in another family gathering.
The Cabuno family reunion is a pretty new tradition, family members say, starting a couple of summers ago. They picked the weekend around July 4 so that more of the college-aged family members could attend.
"We've got Virginia Tech, Ohio State, Kent State here," said Gary Wilson of Struthers, just before family members gathered for a picture.
The oldest family member present was 90-year-old Mary Cabuno of Poland. Jo Ann Sweeney of Boardman, a proud grandmother, held the youngest member of the family, 5-month-old McKenna Sweeney.
And sure enough, there was something for all ages at the park. Organized activities -- clowns and concerts -- drew hundreds, but just as many made their own fun. At Kids' Town Creative Playground, a bevy of youngsters scrambled through tunnels and slides while parents stood by to watch. There was no age limit on the swings; among the high flyers was a grandfather-grandson duo.
Walking principal returns
The community greeted Michael Notar, who just completed a fund-raising walk from Columbus. Notar, former principal of Stadium Drive Elementary School, set out from Columbus as a way to raise awareness and money for research for spinal muscular atrophy, a genetic disease that affects the voluntary muscles for activities such as crawling, walking, swallowing, and head and neck control.
Matthew O'Nesti, one of Notar's former pupils, has SMA. His family started a research fund at The Ohio State University, and Notar's goal was to raise $40,000 for The Matthew Fund.
He started his walk June 18.
On the lawn in front of the William F. Maag Outdoor Arts Theatre, Boardman residents Terry McInnis and Delia Rosa listened to the band Blackwater perform tunes made famous by The Band, such as "Stage Fright" and "The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down." The son of a friend of Rosa's is one of the members of Blackwater.
"It's a nice park and we come here often, not just on the holidays," McInnis said. "Today we came to hear the music."
Other families just took advantage of the opportunity to have an impromptu get-together.
"We do this just about every holiday and in between," said Bob Shipsky of Poland, staking out a spot for a table and some lawn chairs. He and his wife, Ruth, and his three brothers, Jack, Paul and Bill, brought their families to the park for a picnic.
"This was pretty last-minute," he said. "It's an absolutely gorgeous day."