Steubenville kicks off holidays with tree lighting, opening of Nutcracker Village, Advent Market

HOLIDAY SPIRIT — Residents from across the Tri-State Area — and beyond — helped count down to the lighting of Steubenville’s 30--foot Christmas tree Tuesday and enjoyed fireworks afterward. -- Linda Harris

STEUBENVILLE — Below-freezing temperatures didn’t keep residents past and present from crowding into Fort Steuben Park Tuesday for Steubenville Lights Up the Night.

In addition to the tree lighting and fireworks, the celebration marked the opening of Nutcracker Village, a collection of more than 150 life-sized handmade nutcrackers unique to Steubenville, and Advent Market, featuring food and locally crafted gift items.

“I think tonight is the largest crowd we’ve had at the lighting of the tree,” Mayor Jerry Barilla said. “It’s phenomenal to see this many people down here enjoying themselves.”

Steubenville native Larry Renzelli said he comes back every year to celebrate Thanksgiving with family.

“I’m from here originally but I live in New Jersey now,” said Renzelli, who was watching his 2-year-old daughter, Lyla, who was perched on Santa’s lap. “I wanted to bring my daughter back for the holiday. I come back every year for Thanksgiving, but this is only our second year for light-up night. It’s really nice.”

Barilla said he’d run into a Cincinnati couple who’d brought their daughter, who lives in Australia, to see the nutcrackers.

“They drove all the way here especially for this,” he said. “That says something, that we have something special, something unique.”

Judy Bratten, executive director of Historic Fort Steuben, said she couldn’t believe how many people turned out for opening night, pointing out many of them were local.

“A community that’s been struggling for a long time has something that gives them job and pride,” Bratten said. “We’ve worked diligently the last few weeks getting ready. It’s exhausting, but when I got here and saw all the people here it rejuvenated me.”

Wintersville resident Brad Piko brought his almost 3-year-old daughter, Ruby, to Steubenville Lights Up the Night.

“I hope she can keep coming every year,” said Piko, adding it’s “nice to see everyone together in fellowship, enjoying one another in the holiday season.”

Barilla said the volunteers who donate their time and talents to getting the village ready deserve the credit. “We couldnt do anything without (their) support.”