By David Skolnick
Readers of my column know how much I love a parade.
What’s better than being with the family, enjoying beautiful weather, checking out the floats and the marching bands, and grabbing as much candy thrown on the ground as possible?
Of course, there’s always politicians in parades, giving me a flimsy reason to write columns such as this.
Last week I covered the Downtown Youngstown Holiday Parade, the former Youngstown Christmas Parade, that returned for the first time in close to 20 years.
At The Vindicator, reporters rotate weekend shifts and last Saturday I was on duty. That meant my main assignment was the parade. I was looking forward to the parade, and wasn’t disappointed.
The city is working to revitalize itself. Bringing back a tradition ¬≠— yes, I realize they changed the name and replaced “Christmas” with “Holiday” — like the parade was a great idea. The parade began in the 1940s and at its peak in the mid-1950s, there were 50,000 to 60,000 at the event each year.
You can tell right away among the politicians who are parade veterans and who’s in need of parade assistance.
No doubt Youngstown Councilwoman Carol Rimedio-Righetti, a 2010 Democratic candidate for Mahoning County commissioner, came prepared and ready for battle.
Rimedio-Righetti, D-4th, was on top of an Army National Guard vehicle that appeared to be a modified tank. She was standing on top of this thing rolling down East Federal Street like she was leading a charge. In a way she is.
If Commissioner David Ludt, an 11-year incumbent, decides to seek re-election, the two will face off in the May 2010 Democratic primary. Ludt’s campaign team has proven to be one of the most organized and effective in the Mahoning Valley. Rimedio-Righetti is going to have to be at the top of her political game if Ludt runs for re-election. He makes that decision next month.
People were giving the parade participants enough room to get down East Federal, but it got tight at Central Square, where it ended.
That’s when Councilman John R. Swierz, D-7th and one of the parade’s organizers, took care of business.
Politely, Swierz, a retired firefighter, told those watching the parade on the square to stay behind the solid white lines. They listened. It was either listen or get run over by a marching band, but Swierz did a nice job.
County Auditor Michael Sciortino is a parade expert.
He has the perfect combination of a respectable looking float/truck combined with not only good candy, but enough candy to last the entire parade.
When I’m with the family, I grab a few pieces of candy — all right, a lot of candy — when it’s thrown in my direction.
But I was working and had to remain professional. I had to fight back the repeated urges to grab Razzles and other choice street candy staring at me inches from my feet.
While looking down for a moment, Sciortino hit me in the chest twice with miniature candy canes. Cheap shots, but he has good aim.
When the parade was over, Sciortino still had a lot of candy canes and Kisses left in bags. He told me to grab some for my daughters.
I did the first part. As for the second, well, I ate it all on the way back to the office.
My kids don’t know anything about it so let’s just keep that between us.
As for those in desperate need of parade improvement, three Youngstown City Council members stood out.
DeMaine Kitchen, D-2nd, and Jamael Tito Brown, D-3rd, drove in vehicles smiling and waving. Neither had signs on the outside of the vehicles to identify them.
Councilman Paul Drennen, D-5th, walked the cold parade route with a large white bucket of candy. Apparently it wasn’t enough candy. He was running out well before the parade ended forcing him to cut back on how much he tossed to the crowd.
Live and learn.