Bask in fun of weekend’s Summer Festival of Arts


Vibrant and delightful are sure to be the watchwords in and around downtown Youngstown today and Sunday. A perfect weekend storm of a hodgepodge of fine art, concerts from pop to jazz to gospel, ethnic foods from every corner of the earth, special attractions at some of Youngstown’s finest cultural gems and much, much more will bring tens of thousands to Youngstown State University, its environs and the new Youngstown Foundation Amphitheatre downtown.

A centerpiece of the dynamic weekend, of course, is the Summer Festival of the Arts on the YSU campus, which reaches adulthood this 21st anniversary year. It has matured magnificently in scope and popularity into a slew of simultaneous arts and cultural events tucked conveniently within a 1-mile radius.

This year, for example, festival weekend activities have expanded to the freshly opened and pristinely manicured YFA off West Front Street for two signature events, a wine and jazz fest Saturday night and a gospel concert Sunday night.

Once again this weekend, regionwide cooperation to achieve a mutually beneficial goal has paid off handsomely. Key players have included YSU’s Summer Fest team led by the resilient Lori Factor; Youngstown officials led by the downtown events team; the Mahoning County Convention and Visitors Bureau; JAC Live and many others.

ENORMOUS GROWTH

The YSU fest certainly has come a long, long way since the early 1980s, when the Walk on Wick 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 tree-lined 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 on campus 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. today and noon to 5 p.m. Sunday.

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 are:

St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church Summerfest, located just around the corner from the SFA on Walnut Street. It features Greek food, music, dancing and memorabilia. The free festival runs from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. today and noon to 6 p.m. Sunday.

Youngstown Wine & Jazz Festival featuring Grammy Award winning jazz guitarist Norman Brown at 7 p.m. today at the YFA. Tickets are only $10 and are available at the gates.

The 4th annual Gospel Festival starring James Fortune at the YFA on Sunday. Doors open at 5 p.m. with show beginning at 6 p.m. Tickets cost $10.

In addition, numerous YSU departments will participate with activities and displays, including the McDonough Museum of Art, the William F. Maag Library, Ward Beecher Planetarium (which will offer five shows each day and celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing), the Clarence R. Smith Mineral Museum and WYSU, among others.

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 development projects in the central city.

With so much going for it, why not make a day of it by attending multiple events today through Sunday night? Supporting the SFA this year will go far toward ensuring the red-letter weekend in Youngstown will continue to grow better with age for years and decades to come.

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