Things are getting real for Valley TV competitors

The Mahoning Valley has always been well-represented on reality-TV shows. A steady stream of residents has appeared on them over the past decade.

But we’re on a hot streak of late. There has been a spate of locals competing for 15 minutes (and often much more) of fame in recent months.

Mark Canzonetta, chef at Aqua Pazzo restaurant and a Warren resident, will appear on Food Network’s “Guy’s Grocery Games” on Sunday.

Another local chef, Patrick Lavanty of Nicclinni’s restaurant in Boardman, will possibly appear on NBC’s “American Ninja Warrior” during the current season.

Daniel Ferguson, a 2012 graduate of Austintown Fitch High School who now lives in Mansfield, wowed the judges during his audition round performance on NBC’s “America’s Got Talent” Tuesday night, and will appear on the show again.

Robert Clark, a Youngstown native and former Youngstown police officer, is one of the team leaders on CBS’ “Hunted,” which premiered in January.

Jessica Shields, who is a current Youngstown cop, appeared on CBS’ “The Amazing Race” this spring.

Joele “JoJo” Romeo-Watson, a Canfield native who is a luxury real-estate specialist in Orange County, Calif., will compete on Bravo’s “Real Estate Wars,” which premieres July 6.

The Mihacevich Sisters of the Cleveland suburb of Brunswick (their grandmother is a Youngstown native, so that sort of counts) are competing on NBC’s “World of Dance.”

I’m probably forgetting someone, but you get the picture.


J.E. Ballantyne Jr., a mainstay of the Valley’s theater scene, has finally put down on paper the multitude of stories he has amassed in his five-decade career.

Titled “Why I Did It – It’s in the Book,” the book will be released in December for $25, but it can be ordered now for $20 by calling 330-799-6176 or going to

Ballantyne’s theater and television career extends from Pittsburgh to Warren to Youngstown (plus a few tours), and he’s seen a lot happen backstage in this high-stress world. And it’s in the book.

I read an advance copy and can report that he does not shy away from sharp and honest criticism; nor does he hold back on speaking his mind when necessary.

“Why I Did It” also serves as a first-person history of theater in the Mahoning Valley, as well as a loose memoir of Ballantyne’s life, and will include plenty of photos.


Party on the Plaza, the summertime after-work Friday night bashes in downtown Youngstown, will be back beginning next week.

Each party will be in the water department parking lot (where the Kress Building once stood) on West Federal Street, and will begin at 7 p.m. Admission is free.

The lineup is as follows:

June 23: Hoss and the Juggernauts

July 14: The Vindys

July 28: The Labra Brothers

Aug. 18: Howard and the Point Five Band


The inaugural Fiction Forest outdoor music festival will take place July 15 at B&O Station, 530 Mahoning Ave., with Vibe & Direct, Spirit of the Bear, Clubhouse, Captain Kdd, Northern Whale and nine more rock bands. Admission is $15 at the gate.


The Building, comprised of Youngstown natives Anthony and Angelo LaMarca, recently released “Reconciliation,” its second full-length album. The solemn and pensive collection is available as a digital album and on vinyl at

Anthony LaMarca is a member of the acclaimed band The War on Drugs, which will release its much-anticipated next album, “A Deeper Understanding,” on Aug. 25. It is a follow-up to the act’s universally acclaimed 2014 release “Lost in a Dream.”

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