By JOE GORMAN
Santa could not have asked for a more perfect day Saturday as the city officially geared up for the Christmas season with the Youngstown Holiday Parade and Festival downtown.
With temperatures in the lower 20s and the kind of fierce wind Santa likes to pull his sleigh, it was perfect weather to usher in the season.
That didn’t seem to deter the large crowd gathered to watch the procession and also take part in preparade festivities at 20 Federal Place and the Oh Wow! children’s center across the street.
For the first time since the city has had the holiday festival, the museum opened for free Saturday. Sabrina Edwards of Boardman was there with her two sons, who were playing inside the museum.
Edwards said she came to the event last year and wanted to come back because it is good for families.
“It’s just a nice Christmas experience,” Edwards said. “It’s a unique event for the whole family to attend.”
Over at 20 Federal Place, children got the chance to do holiday-related crafts before the parade began. Tiffany Wheatley of Youngstown was on hand with her 9-year-old daughter Aubriellen, who was taking part in the parade with her school group. Wheatley said she was enjoying the experience.
“Everything’s been real nice,” Wheatley said.
Karen Davis of Canfield brought her two granddaughters, Olivia, 8, and Emily, 5, to the parade, as she remembered bringing her children, she said.
“We want to welcome the season to Youngstown,” Davis said.
Larry Riley of Youngstown was there as well with his grandsons Dominic, Dimitri and DeAndre. He said he wanted his grandsons to enjoy the tradition of ushering in the holiday season.
“We came down here for them to see the parade and to enjoy themselves for Christmas,” Riley said. “I just came here to have fun with them.”
Mayor-elect John McNally was one of the grand marshals of the parade, as was Randy Dunn, Youngstown State University president .
McNally and his family also flipped the switch to light not just the Christmas tree on Central Square but the entire square. Sharon Letson of Youngstown CityScape said 50,000 lights are on the square this year. In past years, only the tree was lit.
Letson said funding for the lights this year came through a grant from the Youngstown Foundation with help from the city and CityScape. She said the grant was funded on a “challenge” basis, which means the funds were awarded this year with the challenge to raise the funds to finance the lighting next year.