Holiday sights, sounds overflow at Mill Creek for Christmas at the Mill

Van Ford, left, and Jessica Clonch, both of whom work or volunteer at Mill Creek MetroParks, add donated items to a “giving tree” Saturday during the annual Christmas at the Mill holiday gathering in and next to Lanterman’s Mill off Canfield Road in Youngstown. Items on the tree will go to Mahoning County children in need this winter. Correspondent photo / Sean Barron

If you go …

WHAT: The annual Christmas at the Mill

WHEN: 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. today

WHERE: In and near Lanterman’s Mill, 1001 Canfield Road, Youngstown


YOUNGSTOWN — Santa Claus is arguably the North Pole’s most famous, easily recognized and generous resident, but when it came to the gift of adjectives to describe him, Gio Cincinnato-Zena displayed his own generosity.

“He’s nice; he’s awesome; he’s magic. I love his suit,” Gio, 7, of Canfield, said.

Beforehand, the boy had the honor of sitting on Santa’s lap and giving St. Nick a verbal list of what he hopes to find under the family tree for Christmas, which includes a set of toy train tracks and an accompanying train.

Also on the boy’s short list were school supplies such as markers and pens to set up and stockpile a play classroom in his home.

Gio made his wishes known Saturday during the annual Christmas at the Mill event, at which Santa Claus made an appearance in Mill Creek MetroParks’ Lanterman’s Mill.

The holiday-themed and family-friendly event continues 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. today in and outside of the mill off Canfield Road.

Cloudless skies and temperatures in the mid-50s greeted the hundreds of people who came to the popular mill Saturday to enjoy a traditional holiday environment consisting of music, food and festivities. Inside are many local and regional artisans and crafters selling handmade gifts and crafts.

Gio came to the event and met Santa Claus with his mother, Anna Zena, whose Christmas plans will be spending time with family that includes numerous cousins of Gio’s.

Outside the mill is a “giving tree” that holds a slew of donated items such as gloves, mittens, earmuffs, pairs of socks and head gear — winter merchandise that will go to Mahoning County children and adults in need. Monetary donations also are being accepted, Van Ford, a park volunteer, noted.

Ford, who has spearheaded the tree project for about 10 years, was working with Jessica Clonch, a part-time park educator, who said the items collected will be donated next week to recipients in need.

In addition, the tree may be donated to the Rescue Mission of the Mahoning Valley, Ford added.

Among those in a giving mood Saturday were Blake Suggett, 4, and her aunt, Emily Baker, both of Salem, who carefully placed an item on the tree.

“I told Santa I want a Christmas bear, and that Lincoln might want a bear too,” Blake said, referring to her 1-year-old brother.

Emily and Blake will have an easy time visiting immediate and extended family this holiday season, because they live within a 3-mile radius of Emily’s home, she said.

Adding to the event’s festiveness for Emily was the trio Kelly & Co., which includes her father, Jay Clark. The three provided the outdoor musical entertainment via singing popular Christmas tunes such as “Santa Baby” and “All I Want for Christmas is You,” against a backdrop that consisted of one of the main waterfalls adjacent to Lanterman’s Mill.

The others in the group are Kelly Dunlap and her husband, David Dunlap.

Among the artisans in the mill is Susan Dexter of New Castle, Pa., whose space on an upper floor overlooks the large water wheel.

“It’s all woven on my vintage Union 36-inch,” Dexter, who runs Rugs of Character, said, referring to the type of floor loom she uses to weave mainly rugs made from recycled materials.

Dexter’s specialty is crafting cloth rugs, hats, stockings, needle felt, wrist warmers with affixed buttons and other merchandise from recycled and repurposed shirts, pairs of pants and skirts she buys mainly from thrift shops.

She often rolls the rugs she produces up as they’re being woven, then under the front of the large loom before cutting and tying them. Dexter also sells to crafters what otherwise might be wasted material, Dexter said, adding that she also sells her merchandise at fine-craft shows.

In addition, the recycling process is good for the environment, Dexter continued.

Of course, the holiday-favorite event wouldn’t be complete without the likes of Ray Novotny, who spent part of Saturday roasting chestnuts on an open fire.

“Three of us spent three hours preparing the chestnuts,” Novotny, a naturalist emeritus and park volunteer, said.

After purchasing the chestnuts, a sharp implement is used to score them, which releases pressure when they cook. The roasting process often takes 10 to 15 minutes, depending on the fire’s intensity, he explained.

Soon, each one is opened to reveal the yellow nut itself. They can be hard or creamy, but the latter is best, Novotny added.



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