Warren, Ohio. "Where the heck is that?" an outsider might ask. "Some place you pass through between Cleveland and Pittsburgh."
But Warren is home. As someone who moved away for a long time and recently returned, I have a renewed love and appreciation for "my good ol' hometown."
I left Warren for North Carolina in the fall of 1996. With big dreams, I uprooted my life and took a factory job for a pretty decent wage. Unfortunately, the plant closed nine months later and left me wondering what to do next.
Instead of coming back home right away, I stayed put. In the 13 years that followed, I married, had two children, earned two college degrees and made some close friends.
Last June, we moved back to Warren for a job transfer, but also because I missed my family so much.
To be honest, I was apprehensive about moving back, recalling bad economic times and seemingly endless winters. Thirteen months later, I'm happy to say I'm still alive and kicking.
If you haven't been gone for a decade and a half like I have, here are some things that may be overlooked or taken for granted by native "Warrenites" that I believe make Warren a great place to call home.
New discoveries include the ox roast and huge car show at the Trumbull County Fairgrounds, hosted annually by Glenn Christian Foundation Church. Throughout the weekend, they give away thousands of roasted ox sandwiches with all the trimmings to anyone who's hungry. There's a Sunday morning worship service, fair rides, lots of kid's activities and much more. Admission to the events is free and is mostly funded by T-shirt sales.
Another jewel I've discovered is the Warren Community Amphitheatre just down the street from Courthouse Square. Wow, what a venue and an amazing addition to our already great downtown.
I attended last year's Veterans Day program there and have watched eight of Sunrise Entertainment's "River Rock at the Amp" tribute band concerts. For just a few dollars, you can rock out and enjoy some of the best tribute bands in the country. What a bargain.
The amphitheater is always beautifully landscaped and perfectly maintained, making it a great place to visit.
On Fridays during the summer, the Fine Arts Council of Trumbull County hosts Noon in the Park in Courthouse Square and free Friday night amphitheater concerts. My mom took us to Chalk on the Walk as kids and now my kids love it, too.
Here's a list of some of the things in Warren that I was delighted to find I could still enjoy. The food, for one thing.
How can you talk about Warren without mentioning all of the incredible places to eat? While in North Carolina, I craved white pizza from Sunrise Inn and chili-cheese hot dogs from The Hot Dog Shoppe.
Some other savory selections are the home-baked desserts at the Mocha House. I have the pleasure of smelling these every day at work and find I have to frequently muster the willpower to not raid the cheesecake case when no one is looking. In my opinion, the Mocha House is one of Warren's classiest restaurants.
Speaking of food, I can barely wait until the Italian Festival in August to get my hands on some fried calamari and cavatelli. I've just discovered it's hard to type while drooling.
I don't like the "Stuck in Ohio" stickers I keep seeing around town. Warren is a great place to live with lots of cultural events to enjoy, several beautiful lakes nearby and so many kind and caring people (like our church family and next door neighbors). If you choose to only see the bad stuff in town, I'm sad to say life's way too short, and you're missing out.
Like the sign in the parking lot at Cornicelli Cleaners reads, ''Love Warren, it's home."
Weatherman is a Tribune Chronicle community columnist.