Great time for cookouts & more

Related stories: MEMORIAL DAY | Local events and WTG, a full listing of area events and activities.


The long weekend has a lot

to offer — whether you plan to hit the road, stay home with family, commemorate the Memorial Day holiday with a parade or take in entertainment close to home.

Memorial Day weekend kicks off the summer driving season when many people jump into the vehicles, traveling to visit family and friends. Usually it brings a spike in gasoline prices, but not this year.

Bevi Powell, a spokeswoman with the regional AAA office in Pittsburgh which covers the Mahoning Valley, said gas prices are lower this week compared to last.

“Gas prices are [on average] $2.63 a gallon in the Youngstown area,” she said. “That’s down from $2.75 last week, and down from $2.78 a month ago.”

The decrease is tied to a drop in oil prices.

“Oil prices hit a high of about $87 a barrel about three weeks ago and nose-dived to about $70 earlier this week, Powell said. “It’s tied to the European economy.”

The lower prices are expected to hold through this weekend.

“Gas prices do typically go up for the summer season, but we’ve seen them level off earlier than usual,” she said.

Prices are still higher this year than they were at this time last year, when the cost per gallon was about $2.43.

“Oil prices last year were lower than this year,” Powell said.

That’s good news for Gwen Griffin of Mineral Ridge.

“I’m going to Washington, D.C., for a wedding and then to Hampton, Va., to see my son,” Griffin said.

She hopes to include a visit to the White House on her trip.

Despite the positive travel news, some Valley families plan a quiet holiday weekend.

“We’re having a cookout at home,” said Paula McFarland of Youngstown.

She expects 10 family members to attend the annual event. Some years when the weather hasn’t cooperated, the event moved indoors.

“We moved the grill into the garage, and we all went inside,” McFarland said.

Looking at the weather forecast, the McFarlands appear to be set for their typical outdoor fete.

“It looks nice,” she said.

The National Weather Service in Cleveland confirms McFarland’s assessment.

Meteorologist Kirk Lombardy said there’s a chance of showers and thunderstorms Friday with highs in the upper 70s.

“For the weekend, we have dry weather for Saturday through Monday,” he said.

“There’s high pressure down to the south, so there will be a warm, southerly flow through the area.”

Much sunshine also is expected.

Saturday and Sunday call for highs in the upper 70s with highs in the mid-70s forecast for Monday.

“There’s a trend that it might be warmer Monday,” Lombardy said. “We’ll probably wind up bumping those temperatures up as we get closer to the weekend.”

Dry weather works well for those attending or participating in the slew of Memorial Day parades and services planned for the weekend.

Austintown, Beaver, Boardman, Canfield, Columbiana, Newton Falls, Poland and Sharon are among the communities with holiday parades and services scheduled to honor servicemen and women.

Campbell, Girard, Lowellville, Mercer, Salem and Struthers plan services too.

Entertainment options also abound.

The Dulci-More Festival runs Friday through Sunday in Lisbon and from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday, art lovers can take in the RiverWalk Arts Festival on East Washington Street, downtown New Castle.

At noon Sunday, the Jonesfest musical event begins at Nelson Ledges Quarry Park, Nelson.

Several area bars plan karaoke or live music throughout the weekend.

Ellen Kosa plans to go to Quaker Steak and Lube, Austintown, at 8 p.m. Sunday to hear the Michael Austin Project.

“They play a wide variety of music,” said Kosa of Austintown. “They play everything from blues to some Michael Jackson stuff to rock ’n’ roll.”

Group members are from Howland but play a lot of Cleveland venues.

“They’re very good,” Kosa said. “We saw them at the Lube before, and we know a guy there, so we told him if they ever came back to let us know.”

Those who prefer the outdoors can visit one of the area reservoirs or parks.

Officials at Berlin Lake expect a lot of visitors.

Rene Berberich, resource manager at Berlin Lake, said that of the 348 campsites at the facility, 203 are reservable. Of those, 75 percent were reserved as of early this week.

An additional 146 sites are available on a first-come, first-served basis.

The campground opened at 8 a.m. Wednesday.

“We’ll have some people show up at midnight to get a favorite site,” Berberich said.

The campground has

seen an increase in attendance since the economy fell.

“With the economy, people are pinching pennies,” the resource manager said.

The campground is cheaper than a hotel, she said.

More people are hitting the water now that the weather is warming, too.

“Typically, what we’ve been having is early fishermen because the water is cooler,” Berberich said.

“As it warms up, we’re starting to see some Jet Skis. I look for the boating to pick up.”

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