Disney On Ice Thaws Stereotype of Region

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio — As a resident of downtown Youngstown now, I have been able to confirm a feeling I have had about my city. And I think this confirmation extends to many other cities in the Mahoning Valley such as Warren.

This weekend after Christmas saw several tractor trailers pull into the parking lot of the Covelli Centre. Christmas Eve, as Christian families were preparing for the feasts and gatherings of Christmas, props and scenery and other production items were being unloaded and set up for the Disney On Ice Dream Big show.

My experience on this Saturday after Christmas is why the opening paragraph of this commentary is the lead-in for my remarks.

Three Disney shows punctuated that day and I witnessed a steady stream of families walking the streets, grabbing a bite to eat at downtown restaurants, stopping in at the Oh Wow! Children’s Center and enjoying tremendous unseasonably warm weather.

Happy children bouncing down the streets with their parents and grandparents were a sight to see. Happy faces and smiling faces mixing with downtown residents and those whose jobs bring them downtown, and to the YMCA, on the weekends.

Current estimates tell us that nearly 2,000 people now live in the downtown/YSU campus area and more apartments and university housing is being built. Future plans show a continuing trend for residential development.

And just down the road, a similar revival is happening in downtown Warren, which makes one think (with a grin) that the Disney theme ice show Dream Big is more than an ice-rink phenomenon.

There is no doubt — history and statistics solemnly remind us — of the blows that have hit our valley for more than a generation. There have been some truly devastating chapters of our history since Black Monday, Sept. 19, 1977.

Thankfully, there were many — and still are many — who sincerely DREAMED BIG in the midst of the many adverse conditions that demand community creativity among leaders in all circles and at all levels.

What worked before will not work in the future. Many community leaders challenge us that even now some things we are doing need to be modified if not totally revamped. An ever-growing grassroots energy in the Mahoning Valley is challenging us everyday.

I remember hearing not so many years ago from folks who found it difficult to drive through some of our communities let alone stop in them. Back then, a conversation about establishing new housing opportunities in certain parts of the Mahoning Valley would have been laughed at.

Our community’s struggles, I think, have encouraged many to step forward with ideas, initiatives and actions that are helping us realize that we can STAY here and not just think we need to move away for any true meaningful advancement in our lives.

Many stereotypes have creeped into our thoughts and words about where we call home. Many of those stereotypes are beginning to break down.
Much more energy needs to thaw some of the frozen stereotypes that are holding us back.

Our valley has a rich history and there are connections everywhere in our country of folks who have lived, worked and learned in the valley that runs along the Mahoning River. The early pioneers and adventurers that canoed down the river brought a spirit that helped us soar as an industrial center. The early settlers set up shop here and DREAMED BIG.

Mickey Mouse skating into our lives the weekend after Christmas was more than entertainment. It was another solid and definite reminder that we can do better with less and that we can be a true destination.

Hopefully when Mickey returns (and he will), he will see even more than he saw this time.

Editor’s Note: The author, Edward P. Noga, was the long-time pastor of St. Patrick Church in Youngstown. He retired in July.

Copyright 2022 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.