After watching the Opening Ceremony, I tried to have a bah-humbug attitude toward the Olympics. Other than the World Series, I just don't have much interest towards sport on television. After beginning the week with utter ignorance of everything going on at the Olympics, I attended a technology conference in Columbus and heard others talking about some guy named Michael Phelps. After a while, it became harder to ignore Phelps, and by Saturday night I was standing mere inches from the television screen with clenched fists, disbelieving this twenty-three-year-old has more Olymic gold medals than anyone and—now—eight gold medals from a single Olympics.
There's a lesson in here for Youngstown. Michael Phelps's strategy to get to this goal was set when he was eleven years old. And even over the course of these Olympics, he had to swim through heats and semifinals just to swim for the gold in each individual event, not to mention the qualifying events to make it onto the Olympic team.
Consistency and perseverance, not some overnight sensation, are responsible for this remarkable rise to prominence. Indeed, consistent growth is paying off for Youngstown, on the part of the summer film festival at the Chevy Centre, the expansion of the Farmers' Market to downtown, the explosion of growth in bars and restaurants downtown, the incredible success of the Youngstown Business Incubator and its star pupil, Turning Technologies, and the well-attended summer festivals.
Diane Dipiero, in Sunday's Vindicator, lists "10 reasons why Youngstown's alive, well," and what I see as most significant are the foundational elements that continue to thrive and upon which these new developments can excel: YSU at its Centenary; Mill Creek Park, established in 1891; the Canfield Fair, begun in 1846; and the Butler Institute of American Art, built in 1919.
Dipiero emphasizes what I have said is the critical issue facing us, "The problem is that Northeast Ohio has an inferiority complex, and that needs to stop."
Jim Allgren writes in to the editor in Monday's edition to laud the wealth of quality entertainment in the city:
I can think of at least a half dozen restaurants and clubs in or near downtown Youngstown that are thriving and offer not only quality food and atmosphere, but also great local bands from across the Valley. There's also the Youngstown Symphony, the DeYor Center, and the Oakland Center for the Arts. Party on The Plaza continues to grow, and the Jonesfest music festival in June attracted thousands of young people downtown to enjoy bands and performers from the area.
Another free music festival, Vexfest 5, took place yesterday with over 40 of the area's best bands of various genres performing live. It's time to shatter the myth that downtown Youngstown is unsafe, and that there's "nothing to do in Youngstown." If you can't find something fun and affordable to do in Youngstown, it's your own fault and no one else's.
I'll be among the first to laud GM's Lordstown investment and any other that makes its way into the Valley. But the baby steps are what will get my attention, because those will lead to something sustained and substantial.
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