Olde Fashioned Christmas renewed at Mill Creek Park
YOUNGSTOWN — You could say that Linda Szmara’s love for the holidays is rock solid — with lots of creativity, color and compassion thrown on for good measure.
“It takes four months of full-time painting to get ready for this show,” Szmara, of Boardman, said Saturday.
She was referring to the annual Olde Fashioned Christmas at Lanterman’s Mill gathering, at which she is among the few dozen artisans and makers selling a variety of holiday-themed handcrafted gifts and many other items.
The free and popular family-friendly event continues 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. today at the mill, off Canfield Road.
Szmara collects rocks of varying sizes and shapes mainly from beaches along Lake Erie, then uses that information to formulate how to approach them artistically, she explained.
“The shape determines what animal it becomes,” she said.
As a result, Szmara has used a thin brush with acrylic or patio paint to add faces of dogs, cats, turtles, insects, farm animals, rabbits and other animals to the rocks before varnishing them. She even delves into the food arena by having made one shaped like a muffin and others that resemble bite-sized candies.
Nevertheless, her artistic touches don’t stop with nature, sweets and treats. Szmara also includes Scripture quotes from the Books of John, Psalms and elsewhere; one of her rocks also contains a portion of the Lord’s Prayer that reads, “Give us this day our daily bread” – all of which are intended to uplift people, especially those who have suffered loss, she explained.
Of course, her collection also features several rocks that tie in directly with the holidays. Those include portraits of Santa Claus as well as the baby Jesus in the manger.
Assisting Szmara at the show is her husband, Buck Szmara.
For many, the holiday season wouldn’t be complete without a few chestnuts roasted on an open fire. That’s certainly true for Bobby Colapietro, 8, and his mother, Kelly Colapietro, of Girard.
“I like all the food and stuff,” Bobby said as he and his mother helped themselves to a basket of chestnuts that had been roasted, courtesy of Ray Novotny, a former Mill Creek MetroParks naturalist who now volunteers for the park.
Bobby also bought a photograph of a reindeer, as well as a reindeer ornament for a 4-foot Christmas tree in his bedroom, he said.
“My mom helped me decorate the tree,” Bobby added.
“This (event) just reminds me of growing up. It’s a tradition each year with my mom,” said Kelly, who also came with her mother, Shirley Knight of McDonald.
Kelly added that her Christmas lights and decorations are up, and that she intends to visit family and friends on Christmas day.
Additional items for sale include an array of ornaments and bulbs, handmade jams, lotions, room sprays and candles, prints of major Youngstown landmarks such as Idora Park, specialty wooden crafts, photo canvas wraps, notecards, decorative pieces, wine glasses and tumblers.
Thanks to Tiffany Stille of Sharpsville, Pa., and her daughter, Taylor Stille, some attendees will be able to add a touch of flavor to their Christmas trees this year.
“We’re making Popsicle snowflake ornaments,” Tiffany said.
Specifically, mother and daughter teamed up to paint and add glitter to several such sticks, then glue and have them point in several directions to form the ornaments, said Tiffany, who also is Mill Creek MetroParks’ recreation coordinator.
In addition, people are encouraged to bring mittens, gloves and similar items to hang on an outdoor Giving Tree. The donations will benefit children in need this winter.