Youngstown celebration brings out its holiday best

YOUNGSTOWN — About a month ago, Dave and Shellie Duchek moved into their Poland home, but if you ask their 4-year-old daughter, Gabriella, these days to name her favorite part of the house, you might get an unconventional response.

“The chimney!” an excited Gabriella said.

Why that part of the home? Because in a few weeks, that will be Santa Claus’ entry point.

Nevertheless, she’s not waiting idly for St. Nick’s first appearance in her new house.

“Gabriella was really excited to see the bands and the parade,” Shellie said, referring to being among the thousands of people of all ages who lined both sides of East and West Federal streets for Friday’s annual Holiday Parade and Tree Lighting Ceremony on Central Square, downtown.

Gabriella and her family also were caught up in the excitement of seeing the city’s official blue spruce Christmas tree being lighted, which was part of four hours’ worth of festivities that kicked off the holiday season.

A stiff wind, temperatures in the upper 30s and intermittent light drizzle failed to dampen holiday revelers’ excitement from seeing the parade and tree being lighted, which resulted in loud cheers. It also was refreshing to feel such positive energy in the corridor, Gabriella’s father, Dave, said.

“I think it’s great to see all these people coming to downtown Youngstown,” he added.

For the Duchek family, Christmas likely will follow the traditional trajectory of visiting local and out-of-town family members at various gatherings as well as unwrapping gifts. A trip to Southern Park Mall to see Santa Claus might be in the offing as well, said Shellie, who also brought younger daughter, Josie, 16 months.

Similar fun greeted Lily Ress of Boardman, who came with her parents, David and Kathryn Ress.

“She was so excited; she loved the tree,” said Kathryn, who added that the family also enjoyed dinner at Bistro 1907 in the DoubleTree by Hilton hotel across the street from the tree.

Spending time with relatives also is on the holiday plate for the family, Kathryn continued.

Preceding the tree-lighting portion was a parade that began at East Federal and Commerce streets and ended near West Federal Street and Vindicator Square.

The grand marshal was Louis Zona, director of the Butler Institute of American Art, which recently celebrated its 100th anniversary.

Fifteen area high-school marching bands were part of the more than 60 units that made up the parade, organizers said. Also among those represented were the Youngstown Police and Fire departments, the Mahoning County Sheriff’s Department, Cub Scout Pack 4022 of Youngstown, the YMCA and Home Savings Bank, which had a decorative, 28-foot float.

A list of related activities many adults and children enjoyed also included free admission to OH WOW! The Roger & Gloria Jones Children’s Center for Science & Technology as well as the Tyler Mahoning Valley History Center, roasted chestnuts, photographs with Santa Claus, a Spruce Holiday pop-up shop, a “Phamily Fun” Night with the Youngstown Phantoms and Ballet Western Reserve’s performance of “The Nutcracker” at Stambaugh Auditorium.

Another holiday-themed event is the American Holiday Craft Show, which is 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. today and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday at the Butler on Wick Avenue.



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