Spotlight on Steubenville: Wrapping up the year with nutcrackers

AmyLynn Miller

Steubenville Columnist

It’s that time of year again: the pre-Christmas season of November, when we hear “All I Want for Christmas Is You” resounding throughout the dorms and the local Dunkin is decked out for the holidays.

Many of us are looking forward to the excitement and wonder (and break from school) that come with Christmastime. And what better way to celebrate the season than with giant nutcrackers?

That’s right, it’s almost time for Steubenville’s annual Nutcracker Village. If you’re unfamiliar with the yearly tradition, every Christmas season since 2015 — from the end of November until early January — Nelson’s of Steubenville and the Old Fort Steuben Project work together to display the world’s largest collection of life-sized nutcrackers, all of which are handmade in Steubenville by a volunteer team of local artists and craftspeople. Currently, there are about 170 nutcrackers in all.

The Steubenville Nutcracker Village started in 2015 when business owners set up nutcrackers in their store windows, hoping to attract people to the downtown area.

Though they started with smaller, normal-sized nutcrackers, Nelson’s of Steubenville designed and made the first life-sized one for their store window. The idea evolved, with business owners, schools and families sponsoring nutcrackers made by Nelson’s, and the idea has now become one of Steubenville’s most known traditions and widely attended events.

The Nutcracker Village draws people from outside of Steubenville too. People come to see the nutcrackers from around the Ohio Valley area and, according to one source, even from as far away as Florida.

The nutcrackers — customized to look like everything from Dorothy Gale from “The Wizard of Oz” to a football player to Padre Pio — are displayed in Fort Steuben Park and scattered throughout the Historic Business District in Steubenville. The hope is that the nutcrackers will help encourage foot traffic in the downtown area and a better community in Steubenville during the holiday season.

In addition to the nutcrackers being on display all the time, the Nutcracker Village hosts an advent market on every weekend from the Village’s opening night until Christmas. Food, drink and specialty craft vendors gather in Fort Steuben Park to bring some Christmas cheer.

If you’re looking for a great way to kick off the Christmas season, the Village’s opening night is Tuesday, Nov. 24, 3-9 p.m. Many of the nutcrackers and several vendors will be set up outside of Historic Fort Steuben. Though there will not be any fireworks as there have been in past years, there might be a tree lighting ceremony if restrictions allow.

If you’ll be in town after Thanksgiving break, you might even want to check out some of the Village’s other events which are not limited to nutcrackers: free trolley rides around the historic Steubenville area, a miniature railroad exhibit and more.

You can find more info about the nutcrackers, events and schedule for this year (which is liable to change) on the Village’s website

And with that, my Spotlight column comes to a close. I sincerely hope that the stories and places I’ve shared have helped you to see Steubenville with fresh eyes, seeking out the good. Let us, as the author E.B. White said, “always be on the lookout for the presence of wonder.”