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Summer Festival of the Arts offers old favorites in new location

YSU Summer Festival of the Arts

Youngstown artist Willie Duck Jr. created this print inspired by the handshake between Jackie Robinson and Youngstown native George Shuba, the same event that inspired the statue that will be unveiled in Wean Park before the start of Youngstown State University's Summer Festival of the Arts. Duck is one of the artists selected for the juried artist market. (Submitted photo)

The location has changed. The goal to create an arts event for the public and bring different area cultural entities together remains the same.

Youngstown State University’s Summer Festival of the Arts returns Saturday and Sunday after a one-year absence. Instead of on campus, the festival moves to Wean Park between the Covelli Centre and the Youngstown Foundation Amphitheatre, but many of the attractions festivalgoers have enjoyed in past years will be found in the new space.

Festival coordinator Lori A. Factor said, “I think people will be pleasantly surprised how we’ve been able to replicate what they expect.”

Getting there required plenty of meetings with JAC Management about the best way to use the space. Factor said she had an aerial photo of the park blown up and laminated, and she would use dry erase markers to plot out and replot out the layout.

“First of all, it was a no-brainer that the artists were going to be along the paved paths. We want people of any mobility to be able to access them. It makes sense from a logistical pattern and keeps in tradition with what is expected from the artists. We wanted to make sure we accomplished both of those goals.”

Making sure they could attract vendors for the the juried artist market was another early step in the process, and Factor was pleased with the response.

“That we have over 70 artists really is a testament to them wanting to get back in the swing of the things and have a venue where they can sell,” she said. “Getting those artists was paramount to moving forward.”

Two performance stages will be set up on site. The music stage will include several past favorites like singer-songwriter JD Eicher, the Irish folk band County Mayo, the Hispanic sounds of Conjunto Riquena and the Youngstown Area Community Concert Band.

There also will be several newcomers, like The Irish Brigadiers, a group of siblings (all YSU graduates) who play Irish folk music, and the retro country of Larry Elefante.

“Larry Elefante is a trio, kind of folksy and just a little different than what we’ve had in the past,” Factor said. “We’re looking forward to the vibe they’ll bring.”

The other stage will include Opera Western Reserve, Ballet Theatre Reserve and several theater groups (Oakland Center for the Arts Kids First Theatre Initiative, Millennial Theatre Company, Rust Belt Theater Company, Youngstown Playhouse Youth Theatre, Mahoning Valley Players).

Those and other arts and cultural organizations also will have information booths set up on the grounds.

“They’re all valued partners, and we are enriched because of our partnership with them,” Factor said.

Before the festival starts at 10 a.m. Saturday, the Robinson-Shuba Commemorative Statue will be unveiled in Wean Park. The interest and attention in that project should bring more people downtown for the festival.

In turn the festival also encourages attendees to take advantage of what the area has to offer in terms of art (Butler Institute of American Art, McDonough Museum of Art, Soap Gallery), music (Youngstown Wine & Jazz Festival featuring Jackiem Joyner at the amphitheatre on Saturday, an organ crawl spotlight area church pipe organs on Sunday) history (Tyler History Center, Arms Family Museum, Youngstown Historical Center of Industry and Labor), education (SMARTS, OH WOW! The Roger & Gloria Jones Children’s Center for Science & Technology) and ethnic festivals (St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church Summerfest).

“All of these combine to make an arts and cultural weekend that brings everyone together,” Factor said. “People are so excited about it and program toward it, and I think that’s what makes us a really unique community event.

“To see that cohesiveness and collaboration continue is, I think, what the organizers who started it had in mind.”

Entertainment schedule

SATURDAY

Theatre / Musical Theatre / Dance Stage

10 a.m. — Opera Western Reserve

11 a.m. — Oakland Center for the Arts Kids First Theatre Initiative

Noon — Ballet Western Reserve

1 p.m. — Millennial Theatre Company

Music Performance Stage

10 a.m. — Youngstown Area Community Concert Band

11 a.m. — Larry Elefante

1 p.m. — Conjunto Riquena

3 p.m. — Irish Brigadiers

4 p.m. — John Blinsky featuring Unc D and Thin Thicket

SUNDAY

Theatre / Musical Theatre / Dance Stage

Noon — Oakland Center for the Arts Kids First Theatre Initiative

1 p.m. — Rust Belt Theater Company

2 p.m. — Youth Playhouse Youth Theatre’s Youth Valley Players Showcase

3 p.m. — Mahoning Valley Players

Music Performance Stage

11 a.m. — County Mayo

1 p.m. — JD Eicher

3 p.m. — Willie Ross and Counter Pointe

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