By GUY D’ASTOLFO
In an effort to create tourism synergy, three established downtown-area events will be aligned on the same weekend.
The Summer Festival of the Arts, the Youngstown Jazz Festival and the Tour of the Valley bicycle race will be July 9-11.
Regional leaders are calling it “The Biggest Weekend of the Summer.”
The objective is to create both a regional tourism draw and a homecoming lure for Youngstowners who have moved away.
“If you come home for one weekend, this would be the weekend,” said Phil Moore, executive director of the Mahoning County Convention and Visitors Bureau, said Thursday. The events would also be a good place to take visiting friends or family, he said.
Moore spoke at a press conference in the main concourse of 20 Federal Place.
“The goal is to have a cluster of quality events in one weekend to draw people from all around,” he said. “Each of these events has been around for years and has been getting bigger each year.”
“The Biggest Weekend” campaign is a joint effort by the city of Youngstown, the Regional Chamber, the visitors bureau and Youngstown State University, which sponsors the Summer Festival of the Arts on its campus.
The Summer Festival of the Arts will be July 10 and 11 and will feature an artists’ marketplace featuring more than 60 artists from six states, said Lori Factor, director of the festival. Other highlights include dozens of music, theater and dance performances and family activities.
The popular Festival of Nations will also return to the summer festival with cultural displays, performances and food.
“There will be many different kinds of pierogies,” joked Factor.
New this year is Three Letters Youngstown, an art project in which artists will create red, black and white banners depicting the letters Y, S and U on one side and their interpretation of Youngstown on the other.
The Jazz Festival will be July 10 on Central Square. Music will begin at 5 p.m. with local bands. The headliners — national acts Spyro Gyra and David Benoit — will take the stage at 7:30 p.m.
The most unusual event is likely to be the Tour of the Valley bicycle race, July 9, 10 and 11. It features professional and amateur riders from eight states and many top riders, according to Dan Quinlan of Carbon Racing cycling team, which is spearheading the event. “Word got around [in the cycling community] about what a phenomenal event it was [last year],” he said.
Now in its second year, the tour will try to be more spectator-friendly, and will include an event in Mill Creek Park for recreational riders, said Moore of the visitors bureau.
Moore said the criterium races held last year in the downtown were a sight to behold, with professional riders coming through the streets at 35 mph.
Tour of the Valley: Time trials will begin at 4 p.m. July 9 at Mastropietro Winery, Berlin Center. The Columbiana Road Race will be from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. July 10 on a 33-mile road course in Columbiana County and in the city of Columbiana, where a Taste of Columbiana festival and a Sports Expo will run simultaneously. The weekend will conclude July 11 with a criterium in downtown Youngstown from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. A criterium is a one-mile lap repeated 20-25 times with fast turns and quick sprints.
Summer Festival of the Arts: On the Youngstown State University campus, July 10-11. Features dozens of artists who will demonstrate and sell their wares, an ethnic festival, many live performances and children’s activities. Additionally, neighboring institutions, including the Mahoning Valley Historical Society, as well as some churches in the Wick Avenue corridor, have festivals at the same time.
Jazz Festival: Spyro Gyra and David Benoit will headline this event in Central Square, beginning at 4 p.m. June 10. Tickets are $15 (children under 12 admitted free when accompanied by a parent). Tickets will be two for $20 until June 10. Call the Regional Chamber at 330-744-2131, ext. 12; or Ticketmaster at 800-745-3000.