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Lots to look forward to

As we continue to put 2019 behind us, we are reminded that there are plenty of things to be optimistic about as the new year begins.

One is the sense of vitality that has returned to downtown Steubenville.

We’ve seen, for example, continued growth at the Nutcracker Village and Advent Market. And while it’s tough to know for sure just how many residents of the Tri-State Area — and beyond — visited downtown to take in the displays, organizers have said the numbers are continuing to grow, along with the annual increase in nutcrackers.

What started with 37 nutcrackers five years ago has grown to include 183 of the statues, and that total will grow even higher before the display returns in the late fall.

A key to continued success, as Mark Nelson told reporter Mark Law last Sunday, is keeping the display fresh. Nelson is the owner of Nelson Fine Art and Gifts on Lincoln Avenue and was the driving force behind bringing the display to Fort Steuben Park in conjunction with the Old Fort Steuben Project.

One of the differences this year was the display of the nutcrackers in front of businesses along the blocks of Fourth Street that run between Washington and Adams streets. Another addition was the opening of Fort Steuben to visitors at a nominal charge — a plus that was well received.

It’s all good for the businesses in the downtown and surrounding areas, because those traveling to see the nutcrackers are likely to spend money while they are in town. Whether it’s to purchase a souvenir to help them remember their time with the nutcrackers, enjoy a meal or fill up their tank with gasoline, it adds up to money for local businesses.

¯ The nutcrackers are just one example of good things happening downtown. Another event was the first New Year’s Nutcracker Ball that was held in the ballroom at the old Fort Steuben Hotel.

It was another effort of the Harmonium Project, which is dedicated to strengthening and improving the community. Its members work to promote culture and the arts through music and song.

The group’s work has become familiar to residents from across the region — it presents the monthly First Fridays on Fourth Street events. The monthly family friendly street fairs have continued to attract large crowds. They will return on April 3, with a fish fry-themed evening, and run through the Nov. 6 Halloween-themed event.

¯ Many other events will help bring life to the downtown as the year progresses, including the Sweetheart Chocolate Walk on Feb. 15, the Downtown Shamrock Walk and Irish Tea on March 15 and the Great Steubenville Eggshibition, which will run April 13 through May 10 and offer a scavenger hunt through the community to find each of the many eggs that will displayed at area businesses.

The summer concert series will return to the Berkman Amphitheater at Historic Fort Steuben with a special presentation on Memorial Day, May 25, and then will bring live music to the downtown every Thursday from May 28 through July 30. All of that’s in addition to events like Ohio Valley Frontier Days June 6-7 at the fort and the annual Hometown Celebration, the Greek Food Festival presented by the Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church and the Dean Martin Festival.

It’s a list of things that is no way inclusive and doesn’t even attempt to look at other festivals and events that include summer concert series events in many other area communities, including Weirton, Toronto and Mingo Junction.

There are still those in our region who lament about a lack of things to do. And, while it might come down to exactly what it is any individual is looking to do, if you like live music, if you are looking to enjoy an evening outside with your friends and family or if you’re looking to capture the magic of the Christmas season by strolling among the nutcrackers, there’s plenty going on every week.

The nutcrackers have now returned to their off-season home, where the volunteer members of the Nutcracker Guild will work to restore them and make repairs in anticipation of their return to the park and the streets of the city on Nov. 24, when the annual Steubenville Lights Up the Night event is held.

(Gallabrese, a resident of Steubenville, is executive editor of the Herald-Star and The Weirton Daily Times.)

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