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two little girls sitting on bench with two life size nutcracker statues in steubenville ohio

Steubenville Nutcracker Village

Check out this unique Ohio event that features all things merry and bright, plus 200 life-sized nutcrackers!

Nutcracker Village in Steubenville

Steubenville Nutcracker Village

By Damaine Vonada

Posted On: Nov 21, 2022

Spend the most wonderful time of the year with Ebenezer Scrooge, the Mouse King, Rosie the Riveter, Dean Martin, and even Jake from State Farm in Steubenville, where the world's largest collection of life-sized nutcrackers enchants visitors throughout the holidays.

Christmas tree with lights and fireworks going off in distance in steubenville ohio at night
Photo credit: Chad Mason

Opening on Nov. 22 with fireworks and a courthouse light-and-music show, Steubenville Nutcracker Village is a novel outdoor event that runs through Jan. 7, 2023. It's not only free but also offers youngsters and oldsters alike a one-stop, walkable destination for making memories and savoring the spirit of the season in an historic Ohio River town. 

steubenville ohio street at night lined with life size nutcracker character statues
Photo credit: Madeline Stutzman

Everyone finds plenty of photo ops too, for downtown Steubenville is decked out with 200 nutcrackers depicting characters from history, literature, movies, sports, the arts, entertainment, and numerous cultures, traditions, and occupations.

father christmas nutcracker statue in steubenville ohio

Visitors delight in strolling the streets and encountering Father Christmas, Pinocchio, Leonardo da Vinci, Benjamin Franklin, a Steel Worker, a Soccer Player, Charlie Brown, Mother Teresa, and of course Tchaikovsky, who composed the famous Christmas Eve ballet, The Nutcracker.

wizard of oz character nutcracker statues in steubenville ohio
Photo credit: Madeline Stutzman

While perennial crowd-pleasers include Dorothy and her Cowardly Lion, Scarecrow, and Tin Man pals from The Wizard of Oz, fifteen 15 new nutcrackers – including Glinda the Good Witch and Belle from Beauty and the Beast – debut this year.  

mom and little kid looking up at german style nutcracker statues in steubenville ohio
Photo credit: Madeline Stutzman

In German folklore, figurative nutcrackers are good luck symbols, and Steubenville's good fortune is the talented citizens who have created a truly homegrown Christmas celebration by designing, carving, and painting the nutcrackers. Each nutcracker is locally sponsored and takes at least 40 hours to make.

audrey hepburn nutcracker statue with orange cat from breakfast at tiffanys at steubenville nutcracker village in ohio
Photo credit: Madeline Stutzman

The artists producing them have such a flair for the fabulous that the nutcrackers' eyes, hair, and even moustaches are distinctively detailed to convey personality and expression. "We developed the concept for their eyes during the Nutcracker Village's first year, and they're very Disneyesque," says Therese Fedoryka, who has personally painted about 150 nutcrackers. 

Fedoryka's father, Mark Nelson, was one of the masterminds who originated the event in 2015 to help revitalize Steubenville and provide public art for the community to enjoy. He runs Nelson Fine Art & Gifts, which manufactures religious artwork and devotional items.

But on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday evenings during Steubenville Nutcracker Village, Nelson volunteers for a different job. He drives a tractor so that families can hop aboard the Polar Express Hayride and merrily roll past block after block of buildings adorned with decorations and draped with twinkling lights.

store window decorated for holidays with row of nutcracker statues in front at steubenville nutcracker village in ohio
Photo credit: Madeline Stutzman

The annual transformation of downtown Steubenville into a magical village of six-foot-tall nutcrackers now attracts some 50,000 people from all over the United States. "A lot of them are nutcracker fanatics," says Fedoryka, "while many others are looking for a small-town getaway or an affordable holiday destination."

But no matter why or when visitors come, Steubenville enhances its 24/7 nutcracker exhibit with a sleigh full of activities and experiences that range from sipping mugs of mulled wine in the German Gluhwein Garden to laughing all the way through the Wooden Heart Follies, a set-in-Steubenville musical comedy based on Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker Suite.

crowd of people walking at night for saint nicholas lantern parade in steubenville ohio
Photo credit: Madeline Stutzman

Other performances include Victorian Candlelight and Country Christmas concerts, and during the beautiful, European-inspired St. Nicholas Lantern Parade, locals and visitors alike carry lanterns as St. Nicholas lead them through the streets of Steubenville. Everyone sings carols or ring bells until they reach the Nativity Creche in the Sanctuary Garden at St. Paul's Episcopal Church.   

holiday market at steubenville nutcracker village in ohio

For holiday shopping, historic Fourth Street has several eclectic, independently owned shops. The Prodigal Daughter gift boutique stocks fun and funky treasures and trinkets; Chesterton & Co. Cigars boasts a14-ft. tall humidor; and Drosselmeyer's Nutcracker Shoppe stocks – what else? – nutcrackers, Nutcracker Village ornaments and calendars, and nutcracker-themed gifts such as pretty – and practical! – tea towels printed in Steubenville.

Leonardo's Coffeehouse sells Elfnog – think eggnog latte – throughout the holidays, and Steubenville Popcorn Company's best-seller is its homemade Crocetti Crunch. Crocetti was Steubenville native Dean Martin's real last name, and the flavor-packed popcorn is made from a secret caramel corn recipe.

family posing next to singing nutcracker statue at Historic Fort Steuben in steubenville ohio
Photo credit: Historic Fort Steuben

At Fort Steuben Park on Third Street, a singing nutcracker named Sebastian specializes in "Let It Snow" and other Christmas tunes by Dean Martin, while the nearby Baron Von Steuben nutcracker salutes the Prussian drillmaster – and Steubenville namesake – who trained George Washington's troops.

Steubenville took root in 1786, when the First American Regiment built Fort Steuben to protect surveyors mapping the Northwest Territory. Today, the park is home to Historic Fort Steuben, a reconstruction of the 1786 fort on its original site overlooking the Ohio River.

A year-round living history museum, Historic Fort Steuben fills the surrounding park with good cheer during its annual holiday festivities. "We hold Christmas at the Fort in conjunction with Steubenville Nutcracker Village to offer extra things for people to do," explains Historic Fort Steuben director Judy Bratten. "We have free movies, puppet shows, live entertainment, and a Holiday Market where regional vendors sell hand-crafted clothing, foods, and decorative items."

light display made to look like nutcrackers on side of blockhouse doors leading into historic fort steuben in steubenville ohio

Glowing lights illuminate Historic Fort Steuben's blockhouses, where interpreters in period garb demonstrate heritage crafts on select weekends. Inside the fort's Visitor Center, a seasonal Christmas Shoppe carries everything from Fort Steuben histories to collectible nutcrackers, and special Yuletide exhibits include old-time toys and a Model Train & Christmas Village.

"The vintage toy display," notes Bratten, "is a great place for grandmas and grandpas to connect with their grandkids by showing them the kinds of dolls and games and bicycles that Santa brought them."

little boy reaching towards life size nutcracker statue at steubenville nutcracker village in ohio
Photo credit: Madeline Stutzman

TIP: since Steubenville is chockful of jolly good things to see and do during the holidays, stop by Drosselmeyer's Nutcracker Shoppe or the Steubenville Visitor Center to get activity information and maps showing the nutcrackers' locations. For event details and updates, visit steubenvillenutcrackervillage.com; oldfortsteuben.com; and visitsteubenville.com.

For more things to do this #HolidaysinOhio season, check out #OhioFindItHere at Ohio.org

*Hero photo credit: Madeline Stutzman

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