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Guest column/Steubenville from the perspective of visitors

The United States is still America the Beautiful. The last couple of years have been difficult for us all, and for 24/7 bad news about the decline of the country has bombarded our media. We are a couple from Southern California who decided to embark on a tour of the United States in our RV to see the country firsthand. We have found that the American spirit is alive and well in each new town that we have discovered along the way.

Our recent stop to visit with our dear friends in Steubenville has only solidified our growing view that what we hear on the news broadcasts simply is not true. Do you even know how epic your town is? Steubenville is full of kind and generous people, interesting and historic places to see, fun things to do and just an overall refreshing place to visit.

Our first stop was the Franciscan University of Steubenville. We toured the gorgeous campus with Megan Reister and her husband, Adam, who are the friends in town we came to visit. We were just amazed at the campus itself and the young students who attended. What an amazing experience it must be to choose this place to study. Our favorite place was the tiny Portiuncula Chapel, which is a replica of one of the first churches near Assisi repaired by St. Francis. The chapel is breathtaking — an absolute must-see for anyone visiting the area. The university is a fine example of the real education that is available in the United States.

In order to make our RV a welcoming home the Reister family gifted us a stunning floral arrangement from Big Little Garden Steubenville. The flowers were not only breathtaking but came with a true American spirit of generosity and love attached. Big Little Garden Steubenville grows the flowers and creates these beautiful bouquets at home. Then on the honor system, if you claim or pick up a bouquet, you make a donation to the Friendship Room. The Friendship Room is an organization in town that are driven by a single goal — to meet the immediate needs of the lost and forgotten people in the Ohio Valley. There has never been a more meaningful gift of flowers. This is a real example of the goodness that this country has to offer.

Our next adventure took us all over the town to see the city’s 22 murals, which offered us a peek into Steubenville’s history. They are artistic and delightful to behold. We definitely saw the beauty and pride of the history of this area in each and every mural. Only in America would a city get together to showcase its community pride in this manner.

In our hunt for the real Steubenville, we stopped by a cool looking boutique and thrift store called the Back Closet. The owner was just a delight to talk with as were the customers shopping its racks. If you haven’t stopped by this small business it is a must-see. Small businesses are what America is all about, and we just loved finding some treasures to buy at this enchanting little store.

Next we hit the Steubenville downtown area to check out the architecture of the amazing historic buildings. As we walked the area we found ourselves at the Drosselmeyer’s Nutcracker Shoppe. We were just amazed. As we shopped our friends told us all about the Steubenville Nutcracker Village. It is the world’s largest collection of life-size nutcrackers, numbering 180 individual artistic delights. We were told they are displayed throughout the Historic Business District of Steubenville each November through January. We will definitely schedule our next trip to be able to attend this unique event.

This is just another fine example of the American spirit. A community coming together to create a memorable holiday season for all isn’t something we should take lightly, and we took away a feeling of joy that things like this still exist.

We love American history and as such found out there was a unique opportunity to see Fort Steuben by candlelight, and meet experts on archaeology, military history, Ohio River natural life and Native American cultures. It was an excellent way to spend an evening. We learned so much about the area and how it came to be. We learned about the lives people led at that point of history, and the struggles they faced to provide us with the opportunities we have today. Two of the guides on the tour were very young men. We want to specifically call them out on the excellent presentations. They were an awesome example of pride of history we felt in every person we met at the fort. We also had the opportunity to chat with Mayor Jerry Barilla while on our Candlelight Tour of the fort. It was so refreshing to meet a mayor who is not only down to earth but takes great pride in his community. American history is part of what makes our country great. So nice to see a community embrace its past.

The overall kindness and generosity we experienced in our too-short stay in Steubenville showed us the American spirit is alive and well. We feel blessed to have been welcomed into your community. We received smiles, handshakes and hugs we will take with us as we continue to venture through small towns all over America. Don’t believe the hype on TV. America is as strong, beautiful and amazing as it has ever been. It is the great people, each and every one, who make it so. Thanks, Steubenville, for the stay — we will definitely be seeing you again soon.

(Urita-Kallsen is a resident of Murrieta, Calif.)

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