Bask in hot summer fun this weekend in Y’town


In the immortal words of The Lovin’ Spoonful’s 1966 rock ‘n’ roll classic, this weekend in Youngstown promises to be a “Hot Time. Summer in the City.”

Although weather conditions will moderate from the past week’s oppressive heat wave with sunny skies and temperatures hovering in the lower 80s, we’re certain the downtown area and its environs will sizzle with excitement.

That’s because one of the hottest weekends of the summer in the city and in the Mahoning Valley has arrived with a veritable whirlwind of special events to satisfy a smorgasbord of tastes.

The epicenter of the weekend plays out at the Summer Festival of the Arts on and around the Youngstown State University campus. We applaud Lori Factor, longtime SFA coordinator, her staff and many partnering groups for reaching a momentous milestone this weekend as the fest celebrates its 20th anniversary as a blue-chip investment in the Valley’s portfolio of summer delights.

ENORMOUS GROWTH

The YSU fest certainly has come a long, long way since the early 1980s, when the Walk on Wick Saturday street fair along Wick Avenue was launched. By the late 1990s, when Walk on Wick was bursting at its seams with thousands of visitors and participants, the YSU Festival of the Arts took root.

In recent years, tens of thousands have converged on the manicured campus to savor the sights and sounds of about 80 artist exhibitions and top-notch musical and dance performances. Other popular events at the flagship event include the ethnic food-filled Festival of Nations and the Artists Marketplace.

We’re pleased to see that tradition of consistent growth and diversity continue to mature. This year’s whale of a weekend will feature a potpourri of synergistic events within walking distance of the main SFA. Among them:

The St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church Summerfest, 220 N. Walnut St. (11 a.m. to 10 p.m. today and Saturday; and noon to 6 p.m. Sunday). Admission is free, and there will be takeout lunch service today.

The Fabulous Flashbacks, the Valley’s premiere ’80s and ’90s throwback band, will perform near Central Square tonight at 6:30

Youngstown Comic Con on Saturday and Sunday will transform the Covelli Centre into a Superheroes Wonderland, featuring more than 125 vendors and featured artists Jim Steranko and Jim Shooter.

For the more mellow in the weekend crowd, the Youngstown Wine & Jazz Fest kicks off at 6:30 p.m. Saturday at Boardman and Market streets with Grammy Award-winning pianist Jeff Lorber .

Of course, this weekend’s melange of arts, music and culinary pleasures did not materialize overnight. Indeed, it took a year of planning and cooperation, particularly among the principal players of YSU, the city of Youngstown, Eric Ryan Productions and the Mahoning County Convention and Visitors Bureau.

As YSU President James Tressel has pointed out, “It is yet another example of how, through collaboration, we can do great things at the university, in the city and across the region.”

And speaking of great things born of cooperation, festival-goers who have not ventured into the downtown and campus areas in recent months may be pleasantly surprised by the advances on several key development projects.

On Central Square, they cannot help but notice the amazing transformation of the aging and decaying Stambaugh Building into a deluxe and ornate DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel and the multimillion-dollar exterior and interior renovations to the 12-story International Towers.

Around YSU, the multimillion-dollar Wick Corridor project with improved roadways, bikeways and greenways has opened since the 2017 SFA. In the same vicinity, the finishing touches are being added to the Enclave, a new 194-apartment complex set to open Fall Semester.

With so much going for it, why not make a day of it by attending multiple events tonight through Sunday? Supporting the SFA this year will go far toward ensuring the red-letter weekend in Youngstown will continue to provide, in the soulful words of Sly and the Family Stone, “hot fun in the summertime” in our region for years and decades to come.

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