I was born and raised in Trumbull County. I lived in a little house on Shannon Road in Girard until I was 3, at which point my family moved to a large house right down the road that had a big garden, woods and plenty of land.
I lived in that house, the one filled with my memories and my old toys, until I moved out and got married. But it seems that through the years, I keep coming back to that house, back to where I was raised.
I moved away from home was I was 20. I moved back to Shannon Road 20 years later at the age of 40. During those years, I lived in 30 different places, including with relatives six times and in hotels four separate times. I lived in New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Georgia, Michigan, South Carolina and Tennessee.
The reason for all of these moves isn't near as important as the fact that I always came back home. Trumbull County is my home and I am proud of that. If you live here, you should be proud, too.
Here are some things I've learned in my 20 years of roaming.
l The South may be a beautiful place to visit, but you wouldn't want to live there. The humidity is palpable, and the bugs are evil. The roaches are big enough to arm wrestle and even the adorable love bugs will ruin the paint on your car.
The worst part is the seemingly harmless ants, which will swarm you without being provoked and then bite you into pieces to bring to their blood-thirsty queen.
l In the upper peninsula of Michigan and in Buffalo, the winter is not just a season. It is a way of life. People who live there travel to dinner clubs on their snowmobiles. If they can get the door to their house open.
l Driving in large cities, such as Atlanta or Washington, D.C., requires the patience of a crocodile, the eyesight of an owl, the reflexes of a cat and the speed of a turtle, because all of the other drivers are animals.
But here in northeast Ohio, we have it good, ya'll. We have great weather, delectable foods, and amazing culture. Our springs are bright with beautiful creatures and fragrant flowers. Our summers are filled with lawn mowers, children's laughter, and the clean smell of swimming pool chlorine. Our falls are brisk with hay rides and football cheers.
Our winters well, we have four seasons and should be thankful for that!
The cuisine of the Mahoning Valley is gourmet to me. I love Jib Jab Hot Dog Shoppe in Girard, and you'll find that along with Jay's Famous in Boardman and the Warren Hot Dog Shoppe, you'll savor dogs, burgers, and fries that will put a smile on your face. We have Brier Hill pizza, kielbasa, pierogies and Depizzo's sausage.
We have the Butler Museum, the very first museum dedicated strictly to American artists. The Trumbull branch on East Market Street offers classes for all ages.
The Warren Community Amphitheatre offers movies and concerts under the stars for free. Whether you're into the Big Band era, jazz or 1980s hair bands, you'll hear toe-tapping music. Dancing is encouraged.
One of my family's favorite things to do is to go to what we call The Dancing Fair. It's known to the rest of the area as the Brier Hill Italian Festival. But to my kids, it is a fair without rides, but with loud music and a big dance floor.
This year in Warren is the 30th annual Italian-American Heritage Festival, which has wine tasting and bocce. The St. Demetrios Greek Festival in Warren has rides, ethnic dancers and plenty of delicious Greek foods. We seem to have a festival for every local nationality and any occasion.
The Mahoning Valley offers an impressive amount of local theaters, including the Youngstown Playhouse, the Trumbull New Theater (TNT) in Niles, and Warren's own 2nd Story Theater.
We have the the Trumbull County Fair, the Canfield Fair, and Mill Creek Park. Catch a show at the Covelli Center, Stambaugh Auditorium, or Powers Auditorium. Watch a ballgame at Eastwood Field.
We have it all right here in our backyard. I'm so happy to be back home on Shannon Road, where I still chase lightning bugs in my backyard and where I roast marshmallows over bonfires. Where when I lie in bed at night, I hear the train whistle.
Just like 20 years never even passed.
Laurie Harley is a resident of Girard. Readers can email her at firstname.lastname@example.org