First Night delights

The event concluded with fireworks and a ball drop.



YOUNGSTOWN — The crowds that descended on downtown for this year’s First Night Youngstown had a variety of reasons for taking part.

Linda Spivey of Youngstown and her granddaughter J’Lynn took in African dance performances by the youth group Harambee.

“We’re going to go to the laser show and on the [horse-drawn] buggy,” Spivey said.

Spivey’s friend, North Side resident James Brown, 57, liked all the cultural performances.

“I’m enthused about the different variety of entertainment,” he said. “Every night should be like New Year’s Eve, where all the cultures join together.”

For Greg Kolaluka of Poland, the event made a good setting for a date. He and Boardman resident Carla Young enjoyed the kielbasa and sauerkraut sandwiches before they took in the fireworks and watched the ball drop.

Jody and Mike Anderson of Struthers brought their three young children to First Night for the family-friendly atmosphere. They were headed to the laser light show at the Ward Beecher Planetarium on the Youngstown State University campus.

“It’s something nice that we can do with the kids and not have to worry about anything,” said Mrs. Anderson.

More than 2,400 attended the eighth annual, family-friendly, alcohol-free New Year’s Eve celebration held in downtown and throughout the YSU campus, according to Nancy Haraburda, a First Night trustee.

Sixteen different venues held performances from dancers and singers to rock bands and magicians. There was a drum circle and a pirogi-eating contest, a teen talent show and horse-drawn carriage rides.

And of course, the whole thing ended with a bang — the traditional fireworks display and the ball drop at the City Hall Annex, 9 W. Front St.

Janice Castner, 45, of Hubbard brought along her two children and their soap box car. The pair used First Night to advertise for this year’s derby.

“I took my little one to the main library,” she said. “She made a shaker.”

For others, attending First Night was about supporting the city and downtown.

Paul Dunleavy, 40, was enjoying the buffet at Franco’s restaurant in 20 Federal Place.

“I live in Youngstown. I’m part of trying to rehab and revitalize the city and bring it back,” he said.

Ruth Bolan, 69, of the Smoky Hallow neighborhood, said her favorite part was viewing the mural dedicated to Youngstown past and present, made by artist Bob Barko Jr.

“When you see that mural and you see all the things that are here, it is a great city,” she said.

One of the best-attended events was the rock bands incorporated this year to include the city’s 20s and 30s crowd, Haraburda said. Hands-on activities at the Children’s Museum of the Mahoning Valley on East Boardman Street also were popular, she said.

Overall attendance, performances and weather added up to a successful night, said Gemma Sole, another First Night trustee.

“This is probably one of the best ones we’ve had,” she said.

There also were First Night events held in Salem and Canfield.

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