By Sean Barron
If you ask 14-year-old Maggie Schaefer about her favorite recording artists, don’t expect the usual teenage responses such as Justin Bieber, Katie Perry or Miley Cyrus.
“It’s jazz and oldies, and I’m into that kind of music,” the Poland Seminary High School freshman said.
Nevertheless, Maggie doesn’t just talk about such genres. She occasionally borrows from their practitioners’ songbooks, such as when she gave an audience her rendition of the Nina Simone song “Feeling Good.”
Her performance was part of Saturday’s Poland Idol contest, which was a major attraction during the second annual Celebrate Poland festivities that began Friday at and around Poland Village Town Hall, 308 S. Main St.
Sponsoring the two-day gathering was the Celebrate Poland Committee.
The contest was divided into elementary-, middle-, high-school and adult groups. Maggie was last year’s first-place finisher in the middle-school category with her version of the popular Etta James song “At Last.”
Starting this fall, Maggie plans to keep her musical prowess moving because she will play flute in her school’s wind ensemble and the marching band.
Meanwhile, her performance Saturday pleased her parents, Rusty and Julie Schaefer, as well as several relatives.
Miley Cyrus, though, is a favorite of 9-year-old Hannah Masucci, who treated listeners to her interpretation of Cyrus’ song “Butterfly.”
“It was easy for me,” Hannah, a Poland Union Elementary School fourth-grader, said after stepping off the gazebo.
“It’s a nice song for young girls to sing,” added her mother, Michelle Masucci.
Hannah and her 11-year-old sister, Katie, who also performed in the contest, take singing lessons from Lauren Corcoran, an instructor at the Stage Door Fine & Performing Arts School, a Poland business that offers voice, dance and related lessons.
Other song samplings included “Hero” by Mariah Carey, “Please Don’t Stop the Music” by Rihanna and the Luther Vandross hit “Dance with My Father.”
Each of four judges offered praise, critiques and suggestions to the participants after they finished.
If they weren’t taking in the musical sounds of their peers, many youngsters likely were exploring the more than 30 nearby vehicles that made up the Touch-a-Truck event, courtesy of the Rich Center for the Study and Treatment of Autism.
“The Touch-a-Truck is an opportunity for children of all ages, and even parents, to sit or climb on, explore and witness a variety of vehicles that make our community go,” explained Leah Wilson, the center’s events coordinator.
Vehicles included a crisis-response unit, dump trucks, tractors, dune buggies, golf carts, firetrucks, a limousine, two race cars and a firetruck that assisted at ground zero weeks after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
Adjacent to the $600,000 firetruck was a tent with fire-safety information.
“Don’t play with matches and lighters,” Bill O’Hara stressed when explaining one of the most important tips he gives youngsters.
O’Hara, the Western Reserve Joint Fire District’s fire-prevention officer, noted that homeowners should change their smoke detectors’ batteries at least once a year, and that every home should have at least two escape routes in the event of a fire.
He also explained “stop, drop and roll,” a technique for those whose clothing catches on fire.
O’Hara also conducts seminars in schools and teaches children when it’s appropriate to call 911.
A 6-year-old boy in one of his classes did so and saved his mother’s life, O’Hara recalled.
Also on hand was a makeshift campfire surrounded by signs with safety pointers for young people. They included never starting a fire without an adult, ensuring the fire is fully extinguished and cold before leaving the area and refraining from running around a fire.
The Touch-a-Truck idea came to fruition thanks to J. Georgia Backus, the Rich Center’s director, who stresses the value of embracing the individuality of those on the autism spectrum, as well as helping them better connect with their communities, Wilson said.
The facility, on the Youngstown State University campus, has 74 such students with room for more, she added. For more information, call the center at 330-941-1927.
Wilson praised Farmers National Bank, the Simon family and Sweeney Chevrolet Buick GMC for sponsoring the event and supporting the center.
She also thanked the Junior League of Youngstown, along with staff and parent volunteers, for making it possible for Saturday’s Touch-a-Truck gathering to bring in twice as many children as last year.
Other attendees bought fabric pottery, wooden antiques, light-up toys, angel ornaments, kitchenware, custom jewelry and a host of other merchandise for sale.
Also Saturday, an Ohio historical marker was dedicated at 210 S. Main St., once the site of President William McKinley’s boyhood home and now a Home Savings and Loan.