Federal Frenzy: Breathing Life into Downtown Youngstown

By Gabrielle Fellows and Billy Ludt

Photo by Gabrielle Fellows/ The Jambar.

On Saturday, hundreds of people crowded the intersection of Phelps Street and Federal Plaza to take part in Federal Frenzy.

Federal Frenzy was host to a plethora of vendors and organizations ranging from homemade popcorn to Youngstown-themed art and jewelry from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. Various small bands played at Suzie’s Dogs & Drafts, Martini Brothers Burger Bar and O’Donald’s Irish Pub beginning at 2 p.m. and continuing on into the night.

The shops and bars lining Federal and Phelps were filled with people throughout the entire event. The tables were occupied and most venues offered standing room only.

Groups of people perused the markets during the day, but hordes of local residents and travellers alike flocked to the downtown area later in the day to hear the outdoor performances and enjoy a few drinks. All profits from the event went to benefit the Rich Center for Autism.

Bands began playing on the outdoor main stage at 6:15 p.m. Nashville-based artists Bully and Jordan DePaul — a Youngstown State University graduate — opened for the national touring band Red Wanting Blue.

DePaul spends most of his time in Nashville, Tennessee, although he does enjoy playing shows for his hometown from time to time, especially with organizations like Penguin Productions attempting to bring the downtown music scene back to its former glory.

“This is the biggest crowd I’ve played for in Youngstown for a while,” DePaul said. “That was something that I’ve always wanted to do. It’s good to see Youngstown kind of being receptive to it. … What Penguin Productions is doing, kind of connecting the downtown to YSU, now is going to revive [the scene] a lot more. That’s something when I went to school at YSU that I felt there was … a disconnect with. Youngstown’s right here, and there’s the university. Why don’t they do things together?”

DePaul said he compares Youngstown to a young Nashville and hopes to see more events like this in the future of the city.

“It was something that I really liked seeing,” DePaul said. “It’s a community now. That’s what Nashville’s like. Everybody wants to help everybody. Everyone’s so supportive, and that’s what I’ve kind of started seeing here.”

Daniel Rauschenbach is a Youngstown artist who has made his subject just that: Youngstown. He brought paintings and leatherwork to the event to sell at the vendor marketplace during the day. Rauschenbach said he believes that Youngstown isn’t as dead as many believe it to be, using Federal Frenzy as an example of the city’s vitality.

“It’s so crazy. Everyone says that Youngstown’s dead, or Youngstown’s all this other stuff, and then you see this boom. All these events pop up so quickly and hundreds of people come out to support something,” Rauschenbach said. “You know when you have that refreshing breath of air? It’s just a refreshing day to see the downtown alive. It’s great to see people in the downtown.”

Marissa Devantier runs Vintie Design, a handmade shop from Hubbard specializing in home decor and women’s accessories. Devantier had a stand set up on Phelps Street alongside Rauschenbach. When asked how the day’s event was turning out for her, Devantier replied with “very good.”

“I have a lot of people from Youngstown that are really excited to buy something made in Youngstown,” Devantier said.

By 9 p.m. when Red Wanting Blue took the outdoor main stage, there wasn’t a single space available in the blocked-off streets. People crowded around the stage, the beverage stands and the many free standing heaters that lined the street.

While this was Youngstown’s first Federal Frenzy, the success of the event promises more to come. With the large turnout and positive reviews by attendees and participants alike, the event showcased the possibilities the city has in terms of entertainment, community involvement and revitalization.