Community comes together to celebrate a new year

By Billy Ludt


A crowd withstood the last frigid weather of 2017 to watch First Night Youngstown’s first countdown ball drop on New Year’s Eve.

At the end of another year, businesses, museums and organizations in or near the downtown came together for First Night Youngstown to usher in 2018. From 4:30 p.m. to midnight, people visited these places, each prepared with an activity for participants.

First Night kicked off with an opening ceremony at 20 Federal Place.

Mayor John A. McNally delivered a speech that officially started First Night. Sunday was his last day in office, and McNally said the speech likely would be his last public motion as mayor.

Badges for First Night designed by RJ Thompson, assistant professor of graphic and interactive design at Youngstown State University, depicted New Year’s fireworks going off as seen from the corner of Phelps and Federal streets.

“In any major metropolitan area, you want to have opportunities where citizens can come and feel a part of a community,” said First Ward councilman Julius Oliver.

“We really want to bring the community together,” said Samantha Turner, First Night Youngstown board president. “We’re the only First Night that’s in our region anymore. We want people to come celebrate and bring in the new year.”

The celebration spans a little under eight hours, but Turner said organizing First Night is a year-round effort. With 14 venues and numerous events at each one, she said that time is necessary to prepare.

“From this moment on, let’s have a great First Night,” Turner said to the crowd at 20 Federal Place.

The Covelli Centre wasn’t as cold inside as it was outside Sunday, but many people were still on ice. People of all ages laced up ice skates and took to the ice rink for the free skate at Covelli.

Dustin Rivera of Girard brought his daughters Camille and Lilah out to try their hand at skating.

“It’s great to have something to bring the kids to on New Year’s Eve,” Dustin Rivera said.

Rivera said his family has come to First Night for the last three years.

The OH WOW! The Roger & Gloria Jones Children’s Center for Science & Technology opened up its doors for later hours and set up New Year’s-themed craft activities for kids to create. One was a countdown ball made from construction paper that slides along and reads the last 10 seconds before 2018.

Fireworks were set off twice Sunday – at 9 p.m. for the younger crowd at First Night, and at midnight. The second set marking the New Year was accompanied by a countdown ball the First Night board acquired for the celebration.

At First Night, some people listened to performances of Irish folk music, traditional African music, or tributes to Elvis, The Beatles and Roy Orbison; some sat down for a murder-mystery dinner at the Tyler History Center; others had their face painted or watched a magic show or went for a swim or decorated cookies.

Whatever festivity they chose, everybody at First Night Youngstown celebrated in light of another year passed.

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