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Mayor: Fireworks a go for Thursday in Steubenville

STEUBENVILLE — It may not be the all-day celebration city residents are used to, but Thursday’s concert at the fort will end with a bang: Fireworks.

“We have everything in place to have our fireworks happen Thursday, following our traditional Thursday evening concert,” Mayor Jerry Barilla, president of Historic Fort Steuben, said. “Naturally, with our concerts we’re emphasizing social distancing — we’re asking people to stay 6 feet apart from other family groups, and we recommend people wear masks and be seated, rather than standing and congregating.”

Thursday’s concert is a twin-bill — the Fossils, a local group, will kick off the evening’s entertainment at 7 p.m., with the Ron Retzer Trio taking the stage around 8 p.m. and “leading into the fireworks,” Barilla said.

He said food vendors will be on site by about 4 p.m.

“We’re hoping to close Fourth Street for the fireworks, and, of course, we have to close the bridge,” he said. “The Coast Guard has been alerted to the time to stop traffic. The fireworks usually last around 20 minutes.”

Barilla said like most Americans, he keeps an eye on the news and is aware COVID-19 cases are spiking around the country. He said he’s been in communication with the Jefferson County Health Department and because of the low numbers locally, “they’re saying if you have the concert, these are the (protocols) we strongly recommend you follow.”

“Then it’s up to us to follow them,” Barilla said. “Fortunately for us here, our numbers have been quite small, also West Virginia’s numbers are low, and I don’t think people will be coming (long distances). I feel pretty confident because of the low numbers that we’ll be OK.”

Barilla pointed out the amphitheater bench seating has been marked off to ensure people are adequately spaced, while those who bring their own chairs are asked to arrange them accordingly.

“Most people don’t want to sit (near) other people…that’s kind of an automatic thing,” Barilla said, adding, “We’ve had a lot of positive response about having (the concert), people said they needed to do something, to get out, to be able to have some kind of normalcy to life. This is one way.

“Needless to say, if the numbers were higher, we would think very seriously whether we should even have fireworks — we’re not here to promote people getting sick or dying from this virus. If the numbers were increasing here, we would not have a social gathering of this size.”

If it rains Thursday, Barilla said the fireworks will move to Friday night, “which would correlate with the First Friday event emphasizing food, craft beer and entertainment.”

The Harmonium Project is planning a “socially distant First Friday Street Cafe” Friday in the 100 block of North Fourth Street, which will be blocked off, with outdoor seating to serve downtown restaurants as well as “a few select food vendors.” Diners will be entertained from a stage outside of Leonardo’s Coffeehouse. Providing the music will be by Lylak and Ashley Best.

“The street will accommodate 300 guests, in addition to any available seating within the restaurants themselves,” a Harmonium Project Facebook post noted. “We will be following Ohio state guidelines for restaurants,so keep these rules in mind.”

The rules: Masks required for all business employees and recommended for all guests; food lines will be marked at six-foot intervals, as well as tables. Guests will be required to sit down to eat or take their food to another location. Additional seating will be available at Fort Steuben Park.

Hand sanitizer will be available in a variety of locations, and festival-goers are invited to bring their own as well. The Harmonium Project noted sidewalks and the center of the street will be reserved for pedestrian traffic, with directional signage to help guide one way traffic, and volunteers will be available to sanitize tables between guests.

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