STEUBENVILLE - Visitors to downtown Steubenville on Dec. 8 can expect to have a "grand" time on two fronts - not only at Steubenville's Christmas Parade, which is set to begin at noon, but also by being able to see the restored lobby of the Grand Theater from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.
"This will be the first time since we started the project that we'll have the theater open to the public for an actual event," said Scott Dressel, president of the Grand Theater Restoration Project.
The lobby open house is free of charge and is sponsored by the board members of the theater project, which roughly three years ago launched the effort to rejuvenate the theater located at 121 S. Fourth St.
But those interested in seeing more of the theater's renovation status can take the tour opportunity an additional step.
"We will also offer tours for $5 per person down to the stage on the main theater floor, so you can see all the work that has been done and how much remains to be completed," Dressel said.
The open house marks a first in many years.
"The last time anyone set foot in the lobby was 1979, the last year it was actually open for a film," Dressel said.
"Three years ago, roughly, the lobby was filled from floor to ceiling with essentially antiques and collectibles and used furniture for the used furniture store that was here, and I mean floor to ceiling," Dressel said. "You actually couldn't get through it. For the first year, we actually went up the stairs, through the ballroom and back down from the mezzanine to get in the theater because we couldn't go through this space," he said, "so we cleaned that out on our first volunteer weekend. We had four weekends that year with about 120 volunteers, and we hauled many, many, many tons of rubbish out of here."
Work in the lobby combined painting, carpeting and cleaning of the six poster frames all lined with new velvet and anticipated to have new lighting. The lobby has heating but no bathrooms, which is a project hoped to be completed by next fall.
"We have a variety of things donated in the poster frames now," Dressel added.
The lobby also sports a festive holiday touch with a large Christmas tree and poinsettias donated by the women's group at St. Peter's Catholic Church.
Dressel is excited about the open house.
"It's cool because I think this will help people visualize what we've done and where we can go and especially if you take a look at what's been done in so many other communities with their historic theaters, this is easily doable and can be done in a reasonable amount of time with the right support, so this is our way of getting people involved and giving them a chance to see up close and personal what exactly has happened and what still needs to take place," Dressel said.
"In celebration of our first open house we are having a photo contest to win a $100 Visa gift card," Dressel said. People wanting to enter the drawing are to have a photo of themselves taken in front of the lobby doors with the lobby Christmas tree lights on in the background and post it on the Grand's Facebook Fan Page.
The Christmas tree lights are on daily from 6 a.m. to 9 a.m. and from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. The contest is under way through midnight on Dec. 7. There is a limit of one entry per person or family. The winning photo will be drawn at the open house. The winner need not be present.
The open house also will be occasion for people to take free photos of themselves with cutouts of Dean Martin, Frank Sinatra and Elvis Presley.
Visitors also will have a chance to become a "Friend of the Grand" with annual memberships available and providing a free tour. They are $25 for an individual; $50 for a family; $100 for a business with fewer than 50 employees; and $1,000 for a corporate level membership for more than 50 employees.
Memberships are tax-deductible with 20 percent going to the Grand Endowment Fund and 80 percent to the current restoration phase of the project.
Also on sale are Grand Theater pins that double as a Christmas ornament. They are $10.
At the board's Dec. 6 meeting, an announcement will be made concerning a new board member who will specifically work on the museum part of the theater project in the room next door, from fundraisers to collecting items for it, according to Dressel.
For information, call (740) 632-2899.
(Kiaski can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)