By Don Shilling
Thousands turn out for a celebration of the arts.
YOUNGSTOWN — Some local residents who love the Middle Ages invited others to join them on a trip back in time.
Mary Lou Rowe found herself drawn in. There was something about medieval armor and dancing that attracted the 51-year-old Lowellville resident to a booth set up Saturday during the first Wick Avenue Festival.
Soon enough, she found herself locking arms with people in strange costumes and trying her best to keep up with dance moves developed centuries ago.
“They begged,” she said afterward. “I wasn’t going to do it. I was just going to watch, but I had fun.”
Dirk Hermance, a member of the Society for Creative Anachronism, said reaching out to people like Rowe is why the group set up a tent outside the McDonough Museum.
Members research specific skills and historical events of the Middle Ages and then recreate them in their clothing, dancing and art.
“We give that learning back to the public by educating them. Then we encourage them to join us,” said Hermance, who was dressed in the loose-fitting clothing of a northern European merchant from the early 15th century.
Besides the dancing, Rowe said she enjoyed seeing the medieval helmet and armor that was on display.
“It’s very heavy, and they wore so many layers,” she said.
Rowe was one of thousands who enjoyed several events that were taking place on or near the campus of Youngstown State University. Several groups joined to put together a long list of free activities.
The inaugural Wick Avenue Festival was the brainchild of the Mahoning County Convention and Visitors Bureau to highlight the institutions along that street. It was in conjunction with the 10th annual Summer Festival of the Arts, sponsored by YSU.
Other events were the Smoky Hollow 5K Run, the Forte on the Fifty, Downtown Jazz and Wine Festival and the YSU All-Alumni Reunion. The Summer Festival of the Arts continues today.
Lori Factor, assistant director of YSU’s performing arts series, said the organizations joined together so their marketing efforts could have more impact. She said she enjoyed seeing people from all walks of life enjoy the events.
“Sometimes arts can be perceived as elitist, but it’s not,” she said.
The arts festival features 60 performances and 60 artists, showing jewelry, paintings, photos and crafts.
Phil Gerstner of Findlay brought his handmade sterling silver jewelry to the show for the first time.
“I’ve met a lot of nice, enjoyable people,” he said.
Members of the Society for Creative Anachronism said they enjoyed meeting people in the crowd as well.
David Shriver, who portrays an Islamic tentmaker from the 12th century, said he enjoys teaching people that there was more to the Middle Ages than castles and knights.
He has researched three types of tents made by people of the era.
He said he selected his character because he is fascinated by the people who lived in Palermo, Sicily, in the 12th century.
People from the eastern and western Christian traditions, Jews and Muslims lived together peacefully, and there is much to be learned from that, said Shriver, 53, of Hubbard, who is an associate pastor at Poland Presbyterian Church and a counselor in Hermitage, Pa.
“In that one time and that one place, those four groups were able to live together and bring the best that each had to offer to society. People think they were always fighting and killing, but that’s not true,” he added.