By Terry Duffy
Come this week, another long school year will finally be in the books for area students - summer vacation is at hand!
And what better way to kick it off than with a community celebration? On Thursday evening, June 21, in Youngstown that's exactly the plan.
Sponsored by the Youngstown Business and Professional Association, the Village of Youngstown, with assistance by Youngstown Police and Youngstown Volunteer Fire Co., the ninth annual Beginning of Summer Street Dance will take over the village's Main Street from 6-10 p.m.
There, residents from throughout the River Region of northern Niagara are once again welcome to attend and enjoy a whole host of family oriented activities. "Bring your family, friends and a lawn chair; and join fellow residents as Youngstown's Main Street is transformed into the best beachfront area in Niagara County!" said organizer Cheryl Butera, YBPA president.
First held in 2010, Butera remarked that Street Dance offers what she calls the perfect blend of fun happenings for visitors of all ages, and opportunities for local businesses to shine. "(It) was created by YBPA to give the community a format to showcase our businesses and all we offer," said Butera.
To be held rain or shine, Street Dance will again serve up a number of favorites for visitors. The Carl Motyka Band, a Street Dance mainstay since the beginning, will entertain with its summer beach sounds, complete with beach balls for the kids provided by Anchor Spirits, and plenty of dancing for young and old.
Butera credits Rose Wiktor, proprietor of the former Irish Rose in Youngstown (now Mug and Musket) for much of this Street Dance brainchild. "(She) came up with the Carol Motyka Band and the whole beachfront concept," said Butera.
From this over the years, has come a whole host of family-themed fun that continues to this day. In addition to the beach-themed dancing of Carl Motyka, this year kids can enjoy what is billed as the "best and newest" bounce house by Nick Conde; pony rides by Terri Dietz of Lakeside Quarter Horses and a baked goods fundraiser to benefit 4-H; plus face painting, balloon animals and all-around fun by the Niagara Clown Alley. Other happenings for the kids include a bubble machine station and free popsicles by the Niagara River Region Chamber of Commerce, servings of ice cream by Mangia Cakes and sumptuous popcorn servings by the Youngstown Lions.
"We give away so much (popcorn), nobody goes away hungry," said Youngstown Lion Ernie Lavigueur. He estimates the Lions will serve "approximately 50 pounds" this year.
For the older set there's a classic car show that grows in popularity each year. Organized by Dennis Ketch, Albert McFadyen and Porter Councilman Tim Adamson, the show is expected to again feature the favorites of WNY area collectors and shows, plus a special invite for those unique vehicles of local residents.
"We welcome locals as well as folks that frequent area car shows," said Butera. "There are no cash prizes since this is a free event for fun." She invites those interested in displaying to bring their vehicle to the Hinman Street display area at 4 p.m. on Thursday.
And what about food? Glad you asked.
Street Dance "foodie and vendor coordinator" Catharine Stella said visitors this year can look forward to a nice variety of tasty eats.
New for 2018 will be Sanger Farms selling their delicious homemade pizza and also a variety of baked goods; Rebecca Poletti of The Youngstown Galley will sell fried bologna and onion sandwiches as well as her new Mangia Cake and Bakery ice cream varieties. Returning favorites include Diane and Lou Melloni with Melloni's Catering, serving up their famous sausages and burgers, Cathy Pasquantino and The Village Diner with their famous kickin' chicken chowder and other treats.
And new on the street this year will be the Costello family from The Ontario House selling their menu items, of course, The Mug and Musket selling their popular rice balls, and 700 Bistro selling their healthy choices with Barbara Crouthamel.
Still more attractions to look for are beach ball giveaways, a 50/50 split table on Main Street, family picture taking by the Niagara Clown Alley and assorted various fundraising ventures to benefit worthy Youngstown organizations, including St. John's Episcopal and First Presbyterian churches, local Boy and Girl Scout troops, and the Youngstown Lions.
All of which goes to create that "perfect recipe" - one that has helped make Street Dance an annual family favorite.
"From the first Street Dance, (we found) the main theme recipe works perfectly. We say 'don't fix it if it ain't broke,' " said Butera.
"From Lakeside Quarter Horses (to the) Carl Motyka Band, (the bounce house and 'Food Alley featuring a taste of Youngstown' (to) foodies on (Main Street), the Youngstown Lions (to) the VFW, Youngstown Free Library, free beach balls for the kids (and more), it has always been the perfect recipe."
She went on to praise Motyka as being part of that winning recipe for nine years.
"The Carl Motyka Band is part of the recipe that works perfectly. Loved by all. They are locally known and have as much fun as the kids do," said Butera.
She adds that entertaining on the street in 30-minute slots between sets this year will be some local dancers. Leading off will be a performance featuring Amy Roush and The Dance Shop Studio, with the second troupe featuring Dance Like a Star in Lewiston by Margaret Nucci.
Of the special dance troupes, "(This) was a spontaneous idea of mine and (it was) quickly accepted by both Amy Roush and Margaret Nucci," said Butera. "Everyone works together - that's why it all works so well."
All of which sums of that recipe for success mindset this Beginning of Summer Street Dance has become known for. "Free fun - the first day of summer and last day of school. It has always been the perfect recipe," Butera said.
For more on the year's Youngstown Beginning of Summer Street Dance, visit the YBPA on Facebook, online at www.youngstownnewyork.com
or call 716-745-7989.