Live! at the Morley with Easy Street

Blog Author: Ellie Rafoth, Community Engagement Intern

Closing out the MetroParks Summer Concert Series is the one and only Easy Street! Head down tonight to the Judge Morley Pavilion at 7 p.m. to experience a lively performance by Easy Street!

Before the show, I had the opportunity to speak with Todd Hancock about the group.

ER: How did Easy Street come about?

image006TH: Easy Street Productions, Youngstown’s only professional stock theater troupe and was founded by Todd Hancock and Maureen Collins in 1988. Originally gaining notoriety by staging Youngstown’s longest-running musical “Pump Boys & Dinettes” for a full two year run at the Uptown Theatre, they have since gone on to stage full-scale Broadway productions at the DeYor Performing Arts Center including Annie, The Will Rogers Follies, Beauty and the Beast, Hello Dolly, The Music Man, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat as well as their annual Christmas Spectacular Miracle on Easy Street. Throughout Easy Street’s twenty-six year history, they have raised over a million dollars for local charities, enriched the lives of young people through their musical theater workshops, and have established a brand of family entertainment that is unsurpassed in the tri-country area.

ER: What is the makeup of Easy Street?

TH: Easy Street’s size depends on the show, sometimes topping over 100 cast members but for our Morley concerts we traditionally bring 5 to 7 vocalists, a small gang of our Easy Street Little Rascals, and the 8 piece Easy Street Little Big Band. Soloists include Maureen Collins, Todd Hancock, James McClellan, Natalie Sprouse, and Colleen Chance with other special guests from the Easy Street family of regulars.

ER: What type of music does Easy Street perform?

TH: Show tunes as well as big band and “rat pack” standards with a little pop, country and a few 50’s & 60s classics for fun.

image007ER: Besides Live! at the Morley, where can we expect to see Easy Street?

TH: Easy Street Productions usually produces 3 major musicals a year at the DeYor Performing Arts Center as well as smaller concerts and youth theater shows at our studio on Mahoning Ave. For more info and schedules visit our website at

ER: Any closing thoughts?

TH: Easy Street Productions is the only musical act that has been booked every single year since the Morley Pavilion was built 20 years ago and the MetroParks’ Summer Concert Series first began!

Wow Todd! Thank you! We are always pleased to have and enjoy Easy Street’s performance! Come join us for our last concert of the summer tonight at 7 p.m. at the Judge Morley Pavilion!

Transformation Tuesday: Children’s Play Area at Wick Recreation Area

Blog Author: Ellie Rafoth, Community Engagement Intern

3On Friday, May 30, at the James L. Wick Jr. Recreation Area, Mill Creek MetroParks celebrated the grand opening of the new Julianna Kurinka Children’s Play Area. With summer well underway and the play area being used by children of all ages, I am particularly interested in how far the area has come. Let’s take a look at the playground at Wick that has transformed into the modern Julianna Kurinka Children’s Area!

In order to get a closer look at this amazing MetroParks transformation, I had the pleasure of sitting down with Planning Manager Justin Rogers who worked closely on this project.

According to Justin, the first playground was constructed in the early 60’s and updated in the early 90’s. For over 15 years, the MetroParks has been updating and replacing playgrounds throughout various MetroParks’ facilities. As of 2007, the Wick Recreation Area Master Plan was completed, and recommended improvements to the playground and surrounding area. The plan called for a complete overhaul of the playground site and updates to utilities, walkways, and additional site furnishings. The previous playground at Wick had a climber unit with slides and platforms, a few adjacent swing sets, and a spray basin.

While many projects within the master plan were completed in recent years, a monetary gift from the Julianna Kurinka Trust kick started the planning and construction of the new Children’s Play Area to further implement this aspect of the Wick Master Plan.

The new Julianna Kurinka Children’s Play Area encompasses four distinct play areas for varying age groups. The Adventure Playground is designed for older children ranging from ages 5-12 years old.

“The Adventure Playground includes some challenging components requiring upper body strength, agility, and coordination. The equipment is more modern in scope with various moving parts paired with traditional slides and swings,” said Justin. “Components of the Adventure Playground like the play web and rotating dish are extremely popular and give this age group fun and challenging

The Tot Playground is another component to the Children’s Play Area as it caters to 2-5 year old children. This nature themed playground is intended to be very interactive for little ones.

5“The elements of the tot playground resemble elements in nature,” said Justin. “There are trees, rocks, a tree house climber, musical instruments and a nature scavenger hunt. This playground is partially built on poured in place rubber surfacing making it safe for impact. In fact, all play areas have resilient surfacing for impact in order to keep children safe. There is also a sand component that adds to the four distinct play areas. This section of the playground includes a sand element with climbing rocks. Children are able to dig and find buried fossils. There is also a water element that allows children to build and make trenches.”

Last but not least is the Wet Playground. Not yet constructed, this area will complete the fourth play area of the Julianna Kurinka Children’s Play Area. According to Justin, “This area will feature different spray components. Again, it is designed to be interactive for all ages while promoting a healthy social aspect. The Wet Playground will give kids a different experience with different elements while continuing the nature theme throughout the area. Plans are moving forward with design and construction of the Wet Playground anticipated in the near future.”

The design for the Julianna Kurinka Children’s Play Area was created by the team of Mill Creek MetroParks and URS Corp. The general construction for the site work was completed by Parella-Pannunzio Inc. This project also spanned across many departments here at the MetroParks including Planning, Operations and Horticulture.

Justin also explained that even though the playground and equipment was replaced and updated, the project was a complete site redesign. In addition to the Children’s Play Area, other projects were completed to rejuvenate the Wick Recreation Area including:

  • Rehabilitation of the Bresko Pavilion
  • New concrete pedestrian walkways
  • Upgraded utilities
  • New site lighting and furnishings
  • New benches, trash cans, drinking fountains
  • Three new lighted sand volleyball courts
  • Site landscaping with native plants
  • New signage
  • Sled hill improvements

“All of these project components create the ultimate family destination in the MetroParks, and further enhance the regional significance of the Wick Recreation Area, the MetroParks’ main active recreation center,” said Justin.

Thank you Justin! This is truly an incredible transformation within Mahoning valley’s gem. As summer is nearing an end, grab the kids, pack a picnic, and head to the ultimate family destination in Mill Creek MetroParks for a fun-filled, family-oriented experience!