A group of young Russian athletes are in the Mahoning Valley for the next two weeks to get some training and pointers on playing American football. The teens are here, thanks to the work of former Struthers Wildcat offensive lineman Keary Iarussi, who now works in Russia where he started coaching their dads who wanted to learn the game. Soon, the sons were clamoring for his help, so Iarussi and a small team of coaches put together one of Russia’s only youth football teams. Now, thanks in part to the donations of businesses and individuals, 10 of the 33 members of the Moscow Spartans youth team are being hosted in Struthers homes so they can study the game — and enjoy some American hospitality as well.

Duke Girardi did it again. The Boardman man who owns Girardi's Kirchen Express took first place in Saturday's pasta eating contest at the 34th annual Greater Youngstown Italian Fest. “I’ve done this for 19 years now, and this is my seventh- consecutive win,” Girardi said, who was one of five contestants. Coming in a close second was Frank Anthony Davidio of Hubbard. The ethnic funfest kicked off Friday and continues from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. today on and near Central Square, downtown. More than 40 food vendors and Italian restaurants, more than 24 retail vendors, and two tents of live Italian music suitable for dancing are featured, along with a new book on Coalburg and the origins of greater Youngstown's Italians, written by Mahoning Valley natives Ben Lariccia and Joe Tuccdiarone.

Former Youngstown mayor and liberty township administrator Pat Ungaro has had a storied political career in the Mahoning Valley. In today's Vindicator and on,the ex-Rayen School football coach and his family reflect on his sometimes dangerous efforts at fighting the Valley's corruption and the mob behind it, as well as his success at initiating Youngstown's revitalization after the steel collapse. Ungaro, now 78, retired from his last political post as part-time Liberty administrator in June, due to illness.

A weekend of events to mark the 400th anniversary of the arrival of the first Africans in North America will take place Friday through next Sunday in downtown Youngstown.

The Mahoning Valley 400 Year Commemoration will feature various events to tell the story from the arrival of the first 20 Africans iaboard the White Lion on Aug. 25, 1619, n Virginia, where they were forcibly traded to the colonists in exchange for food and supplies. They had been captured by Portuguese enslavers in west central Africa where they were skilled and knowledgeable farmers, blacksmiths and tradesmen whose expertise and innovations in food production and crop cultivation were valuable. Organizers have published a 100-page history about the contributions of area residentsthat they hope will be distributed to schools to be used as a teaching tool in the fall.

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