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Sales boom is likely at regatta Youngstown awaits weekend lake event

Area businesses are eagerly awaiting the ripple effect the Youngstown Level Regatta will soon provide.

Thousands are expected in coming days for what is touted as one of the country's largest freshwater sailboat races.

The races run Saturday and Sunday, but associated events start as early as today.

"It's like our Super Bowl coming up," said Angelo Ashker, owner of Ashker's Coffee House and Sandwich Shop at 400 Main St. and a nearby ice cream shop on Lockport Street.

"It's exciting," Ashker said. "Everyone here knows they'll do well business-wise and meet a lot of interesting people."

This is the 34th year for Youngstown's premier summer sailing event, which draws about 300 boats and hundreds of sailors and their supporters. The event is sponsored by the Youngstown Yacht Club.

Festivities kick off with a street dance from 6 to 10 p.m. today, which is free and open to the public. Main Street will be closed from Lockport Road to Hinman Street. Regatta merchandise and raffles will be featured along with live music.

Admission wristbands for the Yacht Club's race parties Friday and Saturday nights will be sold at the street dance and at the race parties.

The sailing competition is held all day Saturday and Sunday, ending with an awards ceremony Sunday evening.

Boats leave the docks beginning at about 8:30 a.m. both days, competing in various divisions on five eight-to-10-mile courses set up on Lake Ontario.

"Depending on which way the wind is blowing, it's pretty colorful," said Youngstown Yacht Club member Richard Roach. "It's a nice sight with their spinnakers up. You can generally see them from Fort Niagara or Niagara-on-the-Lake.

"This is very intense racing," he added. "There is really good competition."

It's also an intense weekend for area businesses, who have been gearing up for the event for weeks.

"We'll have our full staff on all weekend long," said Donna Kenny, general manager at Brennan's Irish Pub on Main Street. "We look forward to this. Our kitchen will be open until midnight Friday and Saturday, but then we'll serve pizza until 2 a.m., which we don't usually do."

Mark and Cheryl Butera, recently retired from the hotel industry and social work, respectively, just took over the local liquor store, Anchor Spirits at 113 Lockport St., in April. They are bracing for their first regatta experience as new business owners.

"We're going to park our RV right next to the shop so we'll be camping out with everybody else," Cheryl Butera said. "We've really gotten into the preparations for this."

Youngstown Mayor Neil C. Riordan estimated the population of Youngstown -- about 2,000 residents -- nearly doubles in size during the regatta weekend.
An event of this size relies on a large number of volunteers -- nearly 300, according to Yacht Club estimates, said Roach, adding that a number of the volunteers come from the community, "which is always very supportive."

Roach was also quick to credit Don Finkle of Youngstown, who started the Level Regatta in 1973 with 20 boats. Today, class boats and Performance Handicap Racing Formula boats dominate the roughly 300-vessel field.

Trophies are awarded to the top three finishers in several divisions.

"We put most of the money we make on the regatta right back into the event and also use it to support our Junior Sailing program," Roach said. "We have some excellent racers right here in Western New York, and many of them got their start here with this program."

e-mail: niagaranews@buffnews.com

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