Friends of Fellows’ garden party combines "Beauty and the Beets"


Kena Perkins, Springfield Grille’s service manager, holds a drink made with locally grown raspberries. She is involved with the menu that will be offered at the Friends of the Fellows Riverside Gardens’ “Sugar Beets Meet City Streets” Garden Party set for July 27. Photo by WILLIAM D. LEWIS | THE VINDICATOR

By Sean Barron


Many visitors to Fellows Riverside Gardens are struck by panoramic views that reveal Mill Creek MetroParks’ pristine beauty on one end and an urban setting on the other.

Paul E. Hagman sees the two landscapes not as contrasts but as connections.

“Fellows is an urban garden; our place is in the city,” said Hagman, an architect with Faniro Architects Inc. of Youngstown. “It’s a place where nature and the city are combined.”

That tie-in will be a driving force behind the 21st annual Summer Garden Party event set for 6:30 p.m. July 27 in the D.D. and Velma Davis Education and Visitors Center in the gardens, 123 McKinley Ave.

Hagman also is a board member of the Friends of Fellows Riverside Gardens, which is hosting the gathering.

This year’s theme is “Sugar Beets Meet City Streets,” and the event will feature all locally grown and natural foods prepared by the Springfield Grille in Boardman, Hagman noted.

The main entrée will be local new potatoes roasted in onion confit combined with wood-fired pork mignon with butternut squash chutney, said B.J. Sulka, Springfield Grille’s general manager.

Also featured will be four food stations consisting of a grilled-vegetable tower stacked with nine layers of vegetables; colossal shrimp glazed in Malibu rum with radicchio, an Italian leaf; chicken satay on a skewer that’s a bit fruity and spicy; and a tappas-style salad with European cucumbers, watermelon and crumpled feta complemented with a lemon champagne vinaigrette dressing, explained Sulka, who’s been with the eatery about 12 years.

“We’re using all locally-grown products, and we will be as organic as possible,” he added.


What: The 21st annual Summer Garden Party hosted by Friends of Fellows Riverside Gardens.

When: 6:30 p.m. July 27.

Where: The Davis Education and Visitors Center in Fellows Riverside Gardens, 123 McKinley Ave., Youngstown.

Cost: $70 for nonreserved seats, $125 for reserved seats and a gift of “A Walk in the Garden,” and $1,000 for reserved tables of eight.

Purpose: To highlight the connection between Mill Creek MetroParks and the city of Youngstown, with an emphasis on locally grown food.

Of course, success for such a get-together demands good food, but someone has to assist with the setup, create a pleasing ambiance and ensure good service.

That’s where Kena Perkins comes in.

“I’m so excited,” said Perkins, Springfield Grille’s service manager.

It is hoped the party will allow more people to see how much the city and park have in common, added Perkins, who earned a business degree in hospitality and restaurant management from the LeCordon Bleu culinary school in Pittsburgh.

Another hand in the pot belongs to Adam Lee, who will handle the hors d’ oeuvres.

Examples include grilled peaches with prosciutto and basil; spiced heirloom tomato-glazed meatballs on sliced toasted French bread called crostini; and roasted beets in goat cheese wrapped in arugula, said Lee, who’s a server at the Springfield Grille and plans to start his own catering business, The Sprouted Table.

Lee added that he feels it’s important to buy foods from local farmers, which helps the area’s economy, as well as fair-trade items.

Bartell’s Cupcakery in Struthers will be in charge of the desserts.

The evening will include entertainment by The Guilty Pleasures as well as walks through the gardens.

“The atmosphere [during the event] is meant to highlight the huge number of things you can get locally if you look, not just the food, but it translates to the activities,” Hagman said.

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