When the organizers of Historic Fort Steuben and the creative artisans at Nelson’s of Steubenville came up with a holiday event to display life-sized nutcrackers as a way to reinvigorate the downtown and boost the morale of the citizens of Steubenville, they were stumped at first on how to illuminate the unique creations. For the first year, there were only about 35 nutcrackers arrayed in Fort Steuben Park and lit up by floodlights on extension cords staked all around the grounds. “It was a real concern that someone would trip over them,” explained Jerry Barilla, president of Historic Fort Steuben. “And we didn’t know how and if people would respond to this new event.”
But not only did people respond positively, they loved the nutcrackers and brought friends and relatives downtown to see them.
“We had older visitors in tears: they hadn’t seen crowds swarm the downtown in years,” Barilla said. “So we knew we had a hit and we needed a better way to display them.”
He started looking at methods to light up the area, particularly using hoops to hold the lights above the walkways and discussed the problem with M&M Hardware Store owner, Scott Campbell.
“Hey, what’s my name,” said Campbell.
“Scott?” responded Barilla.
“No, Santa Claus,” Campbell answered.
He had the hoops and a local greenhouse had some, too. Volunteers came to install the lights on each of the hoops. Then another local business stepped up to provide sound: Drew Hindman of World Radio Telecommunications wired speakers along the hoops to a CD player to ensure that holiday music would be playing. The local electricians’ union offered time and expertise to expand the electrical system to handle the improvements. By the second year, the Steubenville Nutcracker VillageTM had become a dazzling display with over 70 nutcrackers, colorful lights, and joyful music – a true community effort. Now in its eighth year with 200 nutcrackers, the event has spread throughout the downtown area bringing light and hope to the community and all who visit.