Downtown Youngstown celebrates holiday season

Downtown Youngstown’s holiday parade, festival and tree-lighting ceremony rang in the Christmas season on Saturday.

The afternoon began on West Federal Street with crafts, train rides, food and holiday vendors. Children of all ages gathered to take a picture with Santa and Mrs. Claus.

The event is coordinated every year by the City of Youngstown, WFMJ, Youngstown CityScape and Youngstown State University.

The holiday parade began at 3 p.m. with participants from all over the area. The parade had more than 60 floats — including one from YSU that won best in show.

“We won Greek Week, and now the float won,” said Chris Klug of Alpha Phi Delta.

Greek Week winners Alpha Omicron Pi C and APD rode the winning float with YSU President Cynthia Anderson.

“YSU was very involved this year,” Anderson said. “We had the women’s basketball team. We had the cheerleaders. The Greek community of fraternities and sororities came out. The float won first place. They are getting back to having this as a tradition downtown Youngstown, and YSU will be here.”

The parade lasted about an hour, as people sipped free cocoa and children scrambled for candy thrown from the floats.

“It was awesome; said Jacob Harver, owner of the Lemon Grove Cafe. “It was quintessential Youngstown in all of its glory. It was fantastic seeing the parade from my apartment up above.” Harver lives in the century-old Federal Building.

The Lemon Grove Cafe held a fundraiser — dubbed the Santa Shuffle 2011 Holiday Crawl — for the Stephen Moore Musical Memorial Foundation. Participants donated cash, music books, used instruments and music store gift cards.

The female duo Jigsaw Rodeo, consisting of Leanne Binder, 48, of Canfield and Trisha Hood, 51, of Austintown performed several songs for the benefit.

“We donated our time to this holiday event,” Binder said. “We are glad to be here.”

Scott Rentz, a 1995 YSU graduate, and his wife, Yvonne Rentz, came to the festival from Newton Falls to share chestnuts with the community.

“We are doing this for the holiday because a lot of people have heard the song about chestnuts roasted on an open fire but have never had it,” Scott Rentz said.

Scott and Yvonne Rentz aren’t interested in making a quick buck. Instead, they’re sharing a tradition.

“We are not selling them, just giving samples. We got the chestnuts from Rulli Brothers. They are Italian chestnuts. All you do is cut them so they will not explode and put them in a frying pan for five [to] seven minutes,” Scott Rentz said. “I have been roasting chestnuts for the past 20 years.”  

Youngstown resident Janero Mitchell, 29, and his sons — J’saun, 8, and J’quan, 11 — came downtown to participate.

“There’s not a lot in Youngstown that I can take my sons to that are traditional. I am glad [there is] something we can do every year until they [have] grown into their own,” Mitchell said. “Plus, I have to support anything positive in this city.”