Local festivals end with a lot of sunshine and music

STEUBENVILLE – It started a week ago with the Ohio Valley History Days at the Historic Fort Steuben and then continued Tuesday with the start of the Grecian Food Festival. The days that celebrate the heritage of Steubenville continued with the Dean Martin Festival and the Hometown Celebration and concluded with the Beatlemania Magic at the Berkman Amphitheater and a a tribute to Dean Martin by Russ Loniello, the Dean & Jerry Show and a Neal Diamond Tribute by Chris Denem at the Spot Bar on Saturday night.

The eight days that brought visitors from across the nation and a family from Ireland ended with a beautiful sunny day and a 13-year-old boy from Beaver, Pa. singing his favorite Dean Martin songs in front of the Grand Theater.

“This entire week has been wonderful for our community because it gave us a chance to show our residents and visitors how special our community really is. From the events at the Fort Steuben to the delicious food at the Greek Food Festival to the great entertainment at the Spot Bar we had something for everyone. And I am really impressed by Dan Dikec singing here at the Grand Theater. He is doing a wonderful job with the Dean Martin songs,” declared Mayor Domenick Mucci.

Mucci was often greeted by out-of-town visitors driving on Fourth Street and called upon to greet the people riding the Fort Steuben Trolley.

“The people who come here every year constantly tell me what a beautiful city we have here. Sometimes we take things for granted but our visitors remind us we have a pretty nice community. People have been very impressed what we have to offer them when they visit Steubenville,” Mucci added.

Dikec entertained the audience at the front doors to the Grand Theater with a variety of Dean Martin songs his mother said he learned in the past year.

“We came here last year for the Dean Martin Festival and he started crooning like Dean did,” said Wendee Dikec.

“I like Dean Martin because he had a kind of swagger to him. He was pretty cool,” noted Dan Dikec.

Dean Martin organizer Rose Angelica quickly agreed and said she is already planning for a larger festival in 2015 on the 20th anniversary of Martin’s death.

“We had big crowds this year and I think our biggest draw may have been Elvis Presley Jr. The Dean Martin display at the Grand Theater is awesome and once again we have seen a growing and continuing interest in Dean Martin,” Angelica said.

“I hope we can bring Deana Martin back next year and have performances during the day at the Steubenville High School auditorium. We want to spread the festival throughout the community again to offer different events for people to enjoy,” Angelica suggested.

Terry and Ruth Mathias have been making the trip from their home in Irwin, Pa. to the Dean Martin Festival every year since it started.

“It’s simple. We love Dean Martin. We used to come for a long weekend but recently we have been coming just on Saturday. We love Tom Stevens doing his impersonation of Dean Martin and we also came Saturday afternoon to see the Frank Gallo Band,” Terry Mathias explained.

For Con Smith, his wife Angeline and daughters Rosslyn, Caroline and Allison, it was a, “now or never trip to Steubenville.”

“I just celebrated my 70th birthday and I have always loved Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra, mainly Dino. So we decided to visit relatives in Pittsburgh and then spend the weekend in Steubenville before we return to Dublin, Ireland.

The Smiths were greeted at the Spot Bar Saturday afternoon by Jo Jo DiAlbert who was acting as an unofficial ambassador for Steubenville and the Dean Martin Festival.

“Welcome back,” DiAlbert told John Gengile of Baltimore who made his third visit to the festival in three years.

“Good to see you again,” DiAlbert greeted Joe and Gina Suley of Dayton on their second visit to Steubenville.

“We really enjoy this community. It is relaxing here and people in Steubenville are very friendly,” remarked Joe Suley.

Rocco Vitalona of Willoughby got a hug from DiAlbert.

“I haven’t been here for a couple of years but I missed the festival and brought my nephew Karl Kaufman with me today. He enjoys Dean Martin’s music and I thought he would like to see Dean Martin’s home town,” Vitalona told DiAlbert.

The Smiths of Ireland soon wandered over to Third Street where the Hometown Celebration at the Historic Fort Steuben included a variety of vendors, hot air balloons by Kurt James, a car cruise-in and Nick Gallias, a magician and balloon artist from Weirton.

“We plan on attending the Beatlemania Magic performance Saturday night and then come back to the Spot Bar for the rest of the evening entertainment.”

Jeff Skidmore was running his mini train around the Fort Steuben park giving rides to children and adults.

“Sometimes the adults enjoy the ride more than the kids,” laughed Skidmore who provided his riders with a running conversation filled with humor and history.

“This is my life and I have fun providing my rides. Sure this is my job but what fun I have and what fun the adults have behaving like a kid again,” Skidmore declared.

“This has been a great week for everyone. The weather turned out great and I believe every event had a very good crowd including our Beatlemania Magic show,” stated Historic Fort Steuben President Jerry Barilla.

“It was good to see the crowds of people in downtown Steubenville walking from one event to another event. It has been a wonderful week,” he added.

The Rev. Nick Halkias, pastor of the Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church responded with his regular answer when asked about the weather and the Greek Food Festival.

“Glory be to God. We had a monsoon on Wednesday but the business stayed strong. We had a shower Friday afternoon but the crowds still came. God always finds a way for us to succeed and once again our festival and this community has succeeded,” proclaimed Halkias.

(Gossett can be contacted at dgossett@heraldstaronline.com)