Downtown Will Be Beehive of Activity this Weekend

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – The downtown will be a hive of activity Saturday as hundreds of visitors and volunteers converge.

The day kicks off with Streetscape 2016, Youngstown CityScape’s annual planting and cleanup effort that centers on the downtown but extends throughout the neighborhoods. Later tomorrow morning, the Northside Farmer’s Market will hold its first outdoor market of the year at its new address, 135 Baldwin Ave.

From noon until 5 p.m., Friends of the Mahoning River will host its fifth annual RiverFest at the B&O Station.

Preparations were well underway Thursday for the 19th edition of Streetscape dubbed “This Bud’s for You.” On South Champion Street, 100 cubic yards of mulch deposited there were being delivered to several sites for use Saturday, said Sharon Letson, Youngstown CityScape executive director. This morning, more than $10,000 worth of flowers are being delivered for planting.

“Planting is almost the easiest part,” Letson remarked.

John Lapin, operations administrator for Ohio One Corp. and chairman of the Streetscape committee, will help set up the flowers for distribution to the various locations. Ohio One owns and manages several buildings downtown such as City Centre One and Ohio One.

“It’s our neighborhood,” Lapin said.

Letson says more than 600 volunteers will pitch in Saturday. In addition, 250 students from the Hugh O’Brian Youth Leadership program, staying at Youngstown State University this weekend, will help out, she said. They will concentrate on Wick and Crandall parks and do some painting and trimming along with the normal mulching, planting and clean-up.

“What’s remarkable is not only the number of volunteers but the demographics,” Letson noted. Streetscape attracts volunteers from the city and suburbs as well as families, clubs and professional organizations.

“We always have new people jumping on board,” she said.

The Northside Farmer’s Market has grown substantially from its first year in 2003, said Jim Converse, co-founder of Common Wealth Inc. and manager of the farmers market. That first year, the market had just five vendors who set up their stands four times. Now the market is held weekly and has grown to about 20 vegetable and orchard growers, six vendors of baked goods vendors and about as many crafters.

The community derives a variety of benefits from the market, Converse said. Among them are the availability of fresh local produce for purchase, the ability to use “income extenders” such as food stamps whose value can be doubled, which makes the produce affordable for low-income individuals, and providing a market for the value-added food vendors at the Common Wealth Kitchen Incubator.

The RiverFest aims to celebrate the Mahoning River and draw greater attention “to the natural resource that we have,” said Patricia Dunbar, president of Friends of the Mahoning River and coordinator of the event.

“If people care for something, if they value the river, they’re likely to take better care of it and maybe get more involved in terms of cleanups,” she said. “We can get community support to help us.”

RiverFest, held the first weekend of June each year to coincide with the Artists of the Rust Belt summer market, attracts representatives of the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency to teach children about caring for the environment and partners with the Trumbull Canoe Club for canoe rides on the river.

“A woman last year said it was on her bucket list to go out on the river,” Dunbar said.

In addition, representatives of the Mahoning County Green Team will be on hand to discuss composting, sustainability and recycling, and representatives of the Mahoning Valley Historical Society will discuss the history of the area among the activities for children and adults.

“Every year we keep adding more and more,” Dunbar said.

Attendance is difficult to quantify, but the canoe rides are one indicator. Last year, more than 200 individuals – not counting children who accompanied adults – signed up for the rides. And not everyone who attends RiverFest takes one of those rides.

“Even though it’s free, not everybody wants to go out on the river,” she said.

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