It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas in downtown Youngstown. The sounds of holiday cheer made their way downtown on Saturday as hundreds of Valley residents waited for Santa's arrival during the annual Downtown Holiday Parade and Festival. There were many treats to be had, from train rides to arts and crafts and even some holiday shopping at 20 W. Federal Place prior to the start of the parade. "It's been amazing," said SMARTS program coordinator Leslie Cusano, who counted more than 125 children only two hours after the festival kicked off.
The SMARTS program gave children of all ages the opportunity to make duct tape bracelets, Christmas tree Origami, candy cane mice, paper ornaments and other fun activities.
Santa's Corners was open for children to purchase inexpensive gifts for their families, ranging in price from 25 cents to no more than $8.
"This used to be a day when the schools all did this," said Sharon Letson, executive director of Youngstown CityScape, which sponsored the one-day gift shop.
TJ Sokol, 2, of Austintown, grinned at the cashier as he purchased a toy for himself. It wasn't his only purchase - he also had a bag full of presents for his parents, said his grandma, Dana Riley of McDonald.
Adults were able to purchase evergreens and cocktail peanuts - or even get a shoe shine or sign a petition to ban fracking at Mill Creek Park.
The YSU Marching Band
performs Saturday as members march down East Federal Street during the city’s annual Downtown Holiday Parade.
Photo by Bonnie Hazen
Outside, Mahoning Valley residents were lining up along East Federal Street in anticipation of the big event: the parade.
Youngstown Mayor Chuck Sammarone also was in attendance, thanking everyone for participating and showing their support for Youngstown.
"Forty years ago, we had a great downtown," he said. "The downtown has come back."
Some children held out their hands while others tried to catch candy in hats or bags. Other children sat on top of a family member's shoulder to get a better view of the more than 40 organizations that participated this year.
Mickey and Minnie Mouse waved to parade-goers and a Chinese dragon weaved its way down the street as children and adults cheered. Even Batman was in attendance.
Gianna Degeorge, 6, of Poland, held her bag open as the candy was thrown to the crowd. She said she didn't know how much candy she had acquired, but she knew it was more than 10 pieces.
Another girl ate a lollipop the same color as the jacket she was wearing.
"No," she laughed when asked if she coordinated on purpose.
Bringing up the rear of the parade train was the most famous character of all - Santa Claus.
Children were invited to take pictures with the man in red after the parade, and adults got one last treat: the pictures were free.
"We've got a little bit of everything going on to bring people to enjoy the downtown," Letson said.