Time slows down as everyone strolls slowly through Historic Fort Steuben while they view the Nutcrackers and visit with friends.You can feel the Christmas spirit in the air.
A truly magical event happens at Fort Steuben Park from November 21 through January 7. Nutcrackers stand guard throughout the park twenty-four hours a day to bring joy and excitement to the Steubenville community along the Ohio River.
German tradition tells us that nutcrackers were given as keepsakes to bring good luck and protect your home. Their power and strength is much like a watchdog keeping evil spirits and danger away.
The first nutcrackers carved by the Steinbachs of Germany featured kings, military officers and prominent members of the upper class. Steubenville Nutcracker Village has continued that tradition by having Nutcrackers designed in the image of prominent local, historical and literary people.
The Steubenville Nutcracker Village became a reality due to the partnership of Nelson’s of Steubenville and Old Fort Steuben Project with Jerry Barilla, president. The project is sponsored by Trinity Health System. It’s their gift to the people of the Ohio Valley. They lay claim to having the world’s largest collection of life-size nutcrackers at 150 and growing each year.
The idea came to Jerry Barilla as he was packing away his nutcrackers after the holiday season. A spark went off that said, “This could be a community project.” Enter Mark Nelson of Nelson’s Art and Design who fanned that spark and with help from his family created the first Nutcracker.
Each 6′ Nutcracker is uniquely designed and hand painted in Steubenville by Nelson’s, home of inspirational gifts. Mark’s daughter, Terese, designs and oversees painting of the nutcrackers while Brian Stutzman, woodworker at Nelson’s, does the actual carving. Much thought, planning and time go into each Nutcracker as their details are outstanding.
Constructed of a dense foam with fiber glass covering, they are both light enough to move easily and sturdy enough to withstand the harsh winter elements of November and December.
When Mark was asked if he had a favorite Nutcracker, he thought carefully before responding. “Picking a favorite Nutcracker is like picking a favorite child…Impossible!”
Take a stroll through Fort Steuben Park day or night to walk among the Nutcrackers lined along the avenue created by a canopy of colorful lights. Nighttime becomes magical as lights and music highlight the characters.
Special effects can be seen from the blue and gold lights on the Sixth Street Bridge, a 30′ Christmas tree in the heart of Advent Market, and wreaths, holly and garland all around the park. The Advent Market, inspired by a Franciscan custom, is open the five weekends after Thanksgiving on Friday, Saturday and Sunday with handcrafted and homemade goods available from holiday chalets.
If you would care to watch a special performance, Wooden Heart Follies, an original Nutcracker musical, is being presented at the Steubenville Masonic Temple. Discover if wooden figures can fall in love. While the melodies are from Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker Suite, the story is based on the Nutcrackers in Fort Steuben Park
Don’t forget to check inside the Visitors Center, where you’ll find a Winter Wonderland of Christmas holidays from the past. There’s also a place to write a letter to Santa and many great gift ideas.
Take a free ride downtown, to view some of the artwork in this “City of Murals”, on the Holly Trolley every half hour on Saturday or Sunday from 1-4 pm. Or perhaps you prefer a free Hayride every half hour on Advent Days from 6-8 pm.
Watch live entertainment consisting of area performers, church and school choirs, and regional bands on Advent Weekends from 5 – 8 pm in the Berkman Amphitheater in the park. Holiday music fills the air.
Stroll through Fort Steuben Park and pick out your favorite Nutcracker…if you can. It’s a great place for families to come together and receive a little Christmas magic.
Historic Fort Steuben can be reached off Ohio-7 along the Ohio River. Address is 120 S 3rd Street, Steubenville, Ohio.