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Changes in store for Dean Martin fest

STEUBENVILLE — Change is coming to the Dean Martin Hometown Celebration.

This year, the Steubenville Visitors Center and the Dean Martin Festival Committee have decided to join forces and throw one big, three-day party on South Fourth Street between Adams Street and Steve’s Fish and Chips. The partnership means there won’t be a separate Hometown Celebration anymore at the fort, however.

“With the Dean Martin Festival, the center point has always been (by the) Spot Bar — we had entertainment and whatnot here over the years (for the Hometown Celebration), but the festival started to slow up,” Steubenville Visitor Center and Historic Fort Steuben President Jerry Barilla said. “We felt we could enhance it this year by collaborating.”

Barilla said they’re planning to close South Fourth Street from Adams to Steve’s Fish and Chips, and use the old Grant School lot for parking.

“On the street we’ll have entertainment, food trucks and, I would think, some tables, chairs and benches, to have part of the event outside the bar itself. But the Spot Bar will still be open for people who wish to go inside” for dining and entertainment.

“We tried in the past with Hometown Celebration to have them do things at Spot Bar and we’d do things at the fort,” Barilla said, “but we never really got it off the ground well. We didn’t seem to generate the activity here. We’re just trying to get together and make it better.”

JoJo DiAlbert, a member of the festival committee and owner of the Spot Bar, said he’s “excited” at the prospect.

“We’re looking forward to starting a relationship with the mayor and the city,” he said. “It was a long time in coming, and we can’t do it without their help. So we’re looking forward to us getting together and making it work. It will be a nice atmosphere.”

He said they’d tried to team up before, “but never could really get it going.”

“The amount of money we put into this thing … we were both on the negative side,” he said. “Maybe working together, we can break even and keep the event alive.”

Barilla figures some of the entertainment they featured for the Hometown Celebration in the past can be incorporated into the Dean Martin Festival, “the impersonators, bands that we’ve had at the fort.”

“And, hopefully, on Sunday, we could try to get a car show on the street as well,” Barilla added. “We could also have crafters on the street. Other activities we haven’t pinned down yet.”

Barilla said there’s still a Dean Martin fan base, “so we didn’t want it to just drift away.”

“It brings money to the city,” he said. “People coming from a distance are going to stay overnight.”

DiAlbert recalled how years ago, festival-goers came from Italy, Florida, Brazil, Switzerland, London and Australia to celebrate Dean Martin’s legacy.

“It was crazy when it was in its prime,” he said. “This year, if we do it and it works, we’ll be able to build off that.”

“He’s still alive out there, his music is still being played, people still come to visitor center asking where his house was,” Barilla said.

“People are still searching out Dean Martin.”

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