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Ravenna High seniors plan Jojo Festival for Friday

Vaseline 1 month ago

Ravenna will host a festival this week celebrating the yo-yo: the breaded, deep-fried potato wedge with a strong connection to Northeast Ohio.

The Ravenna Jo-Jo Festival takes place Friday from 4:00 PM to 8:00 PM on the Ravenna Courthouse Lawn. The event will feature about ten food vendors, many selling yo-yos, plus potato-focused activities for all ages.

The event is sponsored by the social studies class of Ravenna High School and Main Street Ravenna.

Jason “JJ” Marinin, a student in the program, came up with the idea for the festival, inspired by the Potato Festival in nearby Mantua and the Pickle Festival in Akron.

“I came up with the yo-yo festival because I saw that every big city has its own food festival, like a wing party or a pickle party,” Marinin said. “A few months ago my family and I went to the Akron Pickle Fest, and it was a lot of fun to see.”

That experience, Marinin said, reminded him of yo-yos and how common they are in Northeast Ohio. Yo-yos, he said, are “what people call ‘potato wedges,’ but when we say it, no one knows what we’re talking about.”

“I think it fits our community really well,” he said. “The process was really fun and informative… I’m super excited to see it really coming together and people coming and having fun with their families. Seeing people outside talking about it is also really cool, and it’s a nice feeling to see that people appreciate it as much as I do.”

“Outside of Northeast Ohio, they don’t even call them yo-yos,” added Addison Ribelin, one of the students who served as an “intern” at Main Street Ravenna to finalize the final details for the event. “They call them hashbrowns, and it’s not the same.”

Unlike potato wedges, yo-yos are breaded, often in the same seasoned flour that coats chicken, and deep-fried. They’re typically sold with chicken in Northeast Ohio, but the name draws puzzled looks in many other parts of the country. Alfred Ajamie and Walter Abood, founders of Fiesta Pizza and Chicken, take credit for introducing yo-yos to the Akron area in the 1960s.

Arasin Hughes, director of Main Street Ravenna, said a Facebook event sparked interest from former Northeast Ohio residents.

April 26 was chosen because the school year is coming to an end for high school students who are planning for it. Ribelin noted that Ravenna High School’s prom is the day after the festival.

“We thought it would be on a Friday so people could leave school straight away and come straight to the festival,” she said.

Michael Myers, another student intern, said the activities include a dunk tank, which participants can engage by throwing potatoes. Portage Metropolitan Housing Authority sponsors the tank.

Other activities include potato sack races and potato art.

Entertainers include Ravenna native Kendall Chalkwater and DJ Krooz and the Krew Way Experience.

Student Ryan Hall said a lot of work went into the planning and he was grateful to Hughes and teacher Matt Wunderle for guiding the group.

“I can imagine hundreds of people going to the different restaurants, getting yo-yos and enjoying them,” he said. “People are having fun with sack races, painting pumpkins, listening to music and immersing people. I believe this event would be a great success and I hope people come to Ravenna more often to eat and shop.”

Hughes said this is the first time Main Street has partnered with the high school to plan an event.

“I’m really excited about it and I hope we can continue the collaboration and bring other fun things to the community,” she said.

Reporter Diane Smith, who grew up near Fiesta Pizza and Chicken and considers yo-yos the perfect food, can be reached at 330-298-1139 or [email protected].