Sunday, May 25, 2003

City revels in holiday fun

By Maggie Downs
The Cincinnati Enquirer

[IMAGE] Robert McFarland and his wife, Beth, visited Taste of Cincinnati after they were married two years ago.
(Jeff Swinger photos)
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They had bellies full of goetta. They had dope Pumas. They had bobbleheads. And most agreed: It was a great time to be young and in Cincinnati.

The three-day "extreme" Memorial Day weekend included a plethora of big events for young people, including Taste of Cincinnati, the Mobile Skatepark Series and a sold-out Reds vs. Florida Marlins game.

Best of all, the fun was downtown.

"There are not a lot of reasons to come downtown for anybody, unless you're going to a ballgame or a jail," said Sarah Nichols, 22, of Clifton, who attended the Taste and skateboarding events. "It's nice to have something to actually do."

"Anything that attracts people to downtown Cincinnati is a good event," agreed David Taylor, 22, of Price Hill.

Taylor is a b-boy (boogie boy) who was break dancing with other members of his crew at the Mobile Skatepark event.

[IMAGE] Sonya Foor of Clifton helps her son Nase, 3 months, with his hat while Sean Foor makes faces at his son during a visit to the Mobile Skatepark Series events at Sawyer Point.
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The guys were sporting Puma clothing and baggy cargo shorts, nodding their heads to the music that swelled from a booth of turntables. But they turned serious as they discussed the need for suburban dwellers to venture downtown.

"Our city is going to (expletive) because the money keeps going elsewhere," Taylor said. "We're all servers in a restaurant downtown, so we like the conventions. We like the ballgames. We like the festivals. But we still need more people who are willing to come here and do stuff."

Robert and Beth McFarland, 26 and 24, of Middletown, are two people who make an annual effort to do just that. After their wedding two years ago, the newlyweds stopped by Taste of Cincinnati.

"So now it's an anniversary tradition," Beth said.

Others respect that. Coming of age in the Tristate, they attended certain events each year. Now, as adults, they still do.

"It's the Taste," said Joe Ellison, 24, who grew up in Madisonville. "You can't live in Cincinnati and not go to at least one Taste. It's tradition."

Taste, featuring Cincinnati fixtures such as goetta and chili, seems to be one of those quintessential Queen City customs that is both oddball and charming.

"This is a town that loves its festivals," said Bert Herrlinger, 33, of Green Township, who was about to sample some of the food. "It feels very Cincinnati of me to be here right now."

Although the music of Living Colour was a draw for Chris Guenther, 16, and friend Elizabeth Scott, 17, both of Ross, it's the tradition that keeps them coming back.

"You can try new foods and check out some restaurants," Scott said. "It's culture."

A few blocks away, fans lucky enough to nab tickets attended the Reds' first sold-out game since Opening Day.

At Great American Ball Park, Tim Donovan, 24, and friends from Delhi got in line at 9:30 a.m. to wait for doors to open at 4:10 p.m. They were eager to collect the bobblehead dolls of radio announcers Marty Brennaman and Joe Nuxhall, which were given to the first 20,000 fans.

"Just having this much stuff to do - it's great," Donovan said.

Brian Lamar, 32, of Hyde Park also attended the game with friends. He had been to Taste twice on Saturday, and was planning on returning.

"All of this stuff is both cool and corny," he said. "You can walk around and be outside and hang out with your friends. It's pretty rare to be able to do that."

But even with all the highlighted events, some disagreed that this qualifies as a crazy, fun-filled weekend.

"Extreme?! That's wack!" said Joshua Ellison, 17, of Madisonville. (Translation: lame.)

In fact, this weekend might have inadvertently turned into the exact opposite of "extreme."

"Because there are so many big events, there aren't as many things to do this weekend as usual," said Nicholas Spencer, founder of Cincinnati Tomorrow, an organization designed to developing a more creative and exciting city for young people. "Most weekends have about 20 little events, instead of one big thing."

So while it got people downtown, Spencer thinks it won't have a lasting effect on giving young professionals what they want: More fun.

"I don't think the answer is necessarily to have a big festival every weekend," Spencer said. "Young people are looking for something fun to do on a Tuesday night just as much as they want something to do on the weekend."


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