YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – Two Christmases ago, before COVID-19, on the first Friday in December, 10,000 people were in downtown Youngstown for what was becoming an annual Christmas parade. This year, there was no parade. It was replaced by what was called the “Flea on Phelps” and a tree lighting. Though the crowd was shy of 10,000, there were still a lot of people.
The plaza was lined with 35 vendors and already very crowded around 4:30 p.m. Friday for the Flea on Phelps.
As the jazz quartet IKQ entertained, people browsed the various vendors — one person saying it’s the most retail business Phelps Street has done in one day since Strouss’ closed. The plaza was lined with heaters, providing some warmth. Stephen Protheroe was selling his Culture House Coffee.
“It reminds me of Cleveland, a big city feel. Super, super nice. I’m really happy with how this turned out,” he said.
Tina Martin, of Austintown: “I think it’s great. It’s great to be in downtown Youngstown and to see the activity.”
Reporter Stan Boney: “Are you surprised with the number of people who are here?”
Martin: “Kind of, yeah.”
At one point, 2,000 to 3,000 people had filled the plaza. It was like a busy midway at the Canfield Fair.
Youngstown Flea founder Derrick McDowell talked as if there would be another one, only bigger.
“What I’m dreaming of is making our way all the way down to the Youngstown Foundation Amphitheatre. So we’ve got double or triple the capacity that we’re using right now,” he said.
After 6 p.m., the crowd shifted to Central Square and the large decorated tree soon to be lit.
“I think it’s wonderful. I’m glad to be out here to share this experience with Youngstown, Ohio, and my family in the midst of the COVID,” said Sabrina Douglass, of Youngstown.
Then, with the people crowding closer and with some pointing their cameras at the tree, the lights came on.
The Flea on Phelps will return to being the Youngstown Flea this weekend at its usual location in a former warehouse on E. Federal Street. It will be open from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday and from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sunday.