Fort Steuben rolls out red carpet

BANQUET HONOREES — The 2018 Old Fort Steuben Project annual dinner and membership meeting held Wednesday evening at Hellenic Hall in Steubenville included a review of accomplishments and the recognition of three honorees, acknowledged for outstanding contributions to Fort Steuben and the community. On hand were, from left, Judy Bratten, executive director, Historic Fort Steuben; honorees Dan Filbert, Gloria Renda and Dave Gossett; and Jerry Barilla, fort board president and awards presenter. -- Janice Kiaski

STEUBENVILLE — “Where We’ve Been…And Where We’re Going” was the theme of the 2018 Old Fort Steuben Project’s annual dinner and membership meeting that applauded honorees and celebrated accomplishments.

Held Wednesday evening at Hellenic Hall at Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church, the event capitalized on highlights from the past 12 months while extending gratitude to a host of individuals, organizations, businesses and public officials who have partnered and collaborated for the good of the fort and community.

But three individuals in particular were singled for awards by board President Jerry Barilla, cited for their outstanding contributions to Fort Steuben and the community.

They were Dan Filbert of Irondale and Gloria Renda and Dave Gossett, both of Steubenville.

Filbert is a carpenter/contractor who has been a Boy Scout leader for 12 years “but his real love is history, and he gives many programs as a living historian,” Barilla said. “You’ve certainly seen Dan at our festival — he has the very popular tomahawk toss activity, but Dan also has given tours, advised us on period-correct skills and has helped train our young interpreters for the past two years in our Afternoon with Frontier Day program,” Barilla added, thanking Filbert for his commitment to preserving history, helping Historic Fort Steuben and serving as a model for youth in the community.

“There can be pages written on the many contributions that Gloria Renda has made to the community,” Barilla said, noting Renda raised four children on her own after the sudden of her husband. Renda earned degrees in library science and worked as a librarian and media specialist in the Edison Local School District and went on to found the Ohio Valley Adult Literacy Council to train teachers and help adults learn to read.

A charter member of the Academy of Lifelong Learning, Renda traveled as a global volunteer to teach English in Italy and Mexico; was active in Relay for Life and Special Olympics; and is a eucharistic minister for patients at Trinity Health System. Inducted into the Ohio Senior Citizens Hall of Fame in Columbus, she has been a faithful volunteer and board member at Historic Fort Steubenville who went on to organize fellow retired teachers to restore the old Pleasant Hill School House on state Route 213, according to Barilla, recognizing Renda for “her lifelong commitment to improving the lives of all around her.”

An Ohio University graduate with a degree in journalism, Gossett worked at the Herald-Star, the Wheeling Intelligencer, two local radio stations and Weirton Steel Corp. where he served as a union official and communications director, according to Barilla.

“Later he returned to the Herald-Star, serving as the mild-mannered reporter covering city hall, community and political events and major breaking news stories,” Barilla said.

“In all honesty, we at Fort Steuben would not be where we are today if it weren’t for this individual,” Barilla said. “The coverage and stories of Fort Steuben have appeared on the front page countless times. He was always asking when were things going to happen so he could get ahead of it to a story. This past January he retired after a 40-year career in journalism,” Barilla added in presenting him the outstanding contribution award.

“The Old Fort Steuben Project began as a dream to reconstruct the 18th Century fort and provide educational and historical programs,” noted Judy Bratten, executive director, in her report to the audience. “I believe we have fulfilled that dream and have gone further. We have become a commuity resource and a spark for economic development.”

Some of the highlights of the year included the third-annual Steubenville Nutcracker Village and Advent Market that “brought thousands of dollars of economic impact to the city” and the welcoming of more than 30,000 people from 43 states and 13 counties who came to the visitor center, toured the fort or attended events.

Add to that the 2017 spring quilt show; another season of summer concerts; the hometown celebration; 16 school and Scout field trips serving more than 800 students; the downtown farmers market; fall field days involving 175 fifth-graders in Steubenville City Schools; the Christmas parade; and the development of a new exhibit on Ohio riverboats.

Bratten expressed gratitude to all those who contributed to these successes and other. “I am so grateful to all with whom we have partnered for the good of the fort and the community,” she said, referencing a lengthy list of supporters.

The future, she said, includes an active strategic planning and succession committee working to ensure work undertaken will continue. “We are also planning an expansion — to design and construct an educational center in Fort STeuben Park that will provide additional space for the many activities and programs of the Old Fort Steuben Project.”

Old Fort Steuben Project Inc. fulfilled its mission in 2017, the program details, in offering school, Scout and group tours of the fort and first Federal Land Office; setting up rotating history exhibits; providing a vareity of cultural programs; hosting community and educational events; maintaining and restoring murals and planning for new ones; distributing hundreds of visitors information packets and working with public and private organizations on economic development efforts.

A 2017 quick facts part of the program booklet notes volunteer hours total 8,500 with special thanks given to Jerry and Judy Barilla, Eileen Moody, Larry Coleman, Dave Nicholson, Lloyd Wells, Andy Celestin, Alexis Kerns, Dominic Weiss, Marnee Muhleman, Mike Paprocki, Mary Snyder and Sandy Sutherland.

Visitors totaled 15,390, visitor center; more than 800 students, school tours; more than 50 guests, group tours; 7,550, concert attendance; 1,700 fort festival attendance; and 30,000, Nutcracker Village.

Thomas Graham gave the invocation.

The evening also included a Chinese and silent auction and a program featuring a “To Tell the Trust” game show. Panelists included Andy Celestin, Larry Coleman and Dominic Weiss as William McKinley; sisters Therese, Madeline and Gemma Nelson as Doris Day; and Dominic Mucci, James Mavromatis and Thomas Graham as Jimmy the Greek Snyder.

(Kiaski can be contacted at