APRIL 9, 1999 TOWN CRIER ARTICLE

Remember the sounds and tastes of the Idora Park midway? Those famous french fries? Friday nights at the ballroom? A thousand pinic baskets on the hill? The summer when sudsy bubbles took over the waterfall at the old mill? Sounds of hundreds of parohcial school children playing flut a phones in unison on the park ball field? Spring flin? Your courageous first ride on the Wildcat?

A pair of local enterpreneurs thinks alot of people do, and hopes to draw as many of them as possible to an event this summer that will not only celebrate the South side amusement park's past, but also possibly preserve a part of it on an ongoing basis in the future.

In celebration of what would have been Idora Park's 100th birthday this year, the community is being invited to go "Back to Idora" at and August 29th celebration at the Holiday Inn Metroplex, an event designed to recapture the spirit of the Youngstown amusement park. The Idora Park Development Co., a business partnership founded a year and a half ago by Mike Tarantino and Bob Barko Jr. is sponsering the Back to Idora event this summer, along with Oldies 93 WBBG radio.

Although the historic amusement park, which opened in 1899 at the end of a streetcar route as an incentive to get more people to ride the train, has been closed since September 5, 1984--following a fire that spring which closed destroyed the treasured Wildcat rollercoaster and, ultimetly the park--generations of memories keep the south side park alive. People of all ages have sometimes similar, sometimes quite different perspectives on the park--still share their Idora memories, which are ingrained throughout the bond of the community.

Back to Idora
The event will capture the spirit of Idora Park by enabling people to walk down a midway again, to the background sounds of Idora (some actual audio tapes of carousel music and sounds of the Wildcat).

We're working on having midway games and memorabilia there--big peices of the park that no one has seen in nearly 15 years. Barko revealed. "We'll have a full complete entertainment at the ballrom in the Metroplex. The whole idal of memories of dances at Idora will be captured in one section, and Idora Park style food--burgers, dogs and of course those famous fries will be available. There will be a Kiddieland section, set up by Weecare Daycare and Learning Center, and showings of Idora Park videos at an informative/historical section. Barko added.

Since Novemeber of 1997, Barko--an artist--has crated a number of different prints featuring Idora Park. He first met Tarnatino at his framing business, Creative Corners, when Tarantino framed the artist's first Idora Park Print, "Remember Historic Idora Park" the two park enthusiasts joined forces for an Idora Park memorabilia show in June 1988, when Creative Corners sponsered Barko's follow up, a panoramic drawing, "A Day at Idora".

"We realized we could accomplish more in seven months than many other Idora groups had in years" Barko said. That was when the business partnership began. IPDC organized the Back to Idora event after they noticed the wealth of emotions that surfaced from people who viewed the artist's works.

"People could see the spirit of Idora Park on paper, they could recall and reminisce, but we wanted to do an actual event that could capture that spirit as completely as possible" Barko said.

Other Plans
"We may decide to turn it into an annual event" he added. However the long term goal of IPDC is to literally bring back the park--or at least a part of it.

"The IPDC is interested in the purchase of the ballroom for a museum and memorabilia display, and as much of the southern parking lot (where the Jack Rabbit and Ballroom are still located) as possible from the church" he said.

Currently, Mount Calvery Pentecostal Church has possession of the ballroom and coasters that still stand on the property, in additon to the 28 acres of land on Youngstown's south side. Church officials have long planned to develop the land into a "City of God Spiritual Center" complete with a school, church and housing, and are in the process of raising funds for the project. At this time, it is unclear whether the church would consider selling a part of the land.

"We see this as the best way to preserve the memory of the park, and we would also like to put the ballroom to contemporary use" Tarantino said. "Bob and I are working with Conneaut Lake Park to get the Jack Rabbit moved there" he added. "This is our Titanic.. Although we remember only the last few operating years of Idora, we would like to preserve as much of it as possible" he said.






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