STEUBENVILLE — With a pandemic raging for most of 2021, Americans changed the way they played — and that worked to the advantage of Historic Fort Steuben and the Steubenville Visitor Center, Assistant Director Judy Bratten said.

In the group’s annual report, Bratten said the COVID-19 pandemic “had a significant impact on travel and tourism throughout the country, and Jefferson County was no exception.”

“The visitor center promoted the many attractions in the area that allowed for social distancing and guaranteed health and safety protocols,” she said in the annual report. “As a result, we had many visitors who came to see the murals, hiked and took in the StoryWalk at Beatty Park, enjoyed First Fridays and Summer Concerts, and toured Historic Fort Steuben.”

Despite fears of a recurrence, she pointed out many travelers came back for holiday events sponsored by Steubenville Nutcracker Village and Christmas at the Fort.

“Steubenville was able to be listed as part of the Ohio Holiday Lights Trail and we were mentioned in many social media sites as a fun and safe destination,” Bratten wrote. “We are grateful for the support of the community in welcoming visitors during this difficult time.”

Bratten said they organized the Downtown Steubenville Farmers Market; planned and organized the Dean Martin Steubenville Hometown Celebration; organized the Steubenville Christmas Parade, Fourth of July and Lights Up the Night celebrations; and arranged for the Courthouse Light and Sound Show at Christmas.

She said they advertised in out-of-state magazines, newspapers, travel guides and online sites, as well as in-state entities, distributed more than 1,000 brochures to various county visitor centers and mailed out more than 4,000 visitor packets in response to requests.

They also designed travel itineraries for tour groups, met with various marketing entities and developed features for travel magazines, stocked brochures at hotels and other venues; collaborated with local organizations to promote their events and fundraising activities; and were active members of several regional groups to promote and enhance area activities, including Ohio’s Appalachian Country, Upper Ohio Valley Tourism, Adventures in Northeast Ohio and Ohio River Scenic Byway.

“I believe Steubenville did very well in tourism last year,” she said Thursday. “Some of it was due to our promoting the many opportunities for outdoor activities, such as hiking in Beatty Park, walking around the City of Murals, and events such as First Fridays and outdoor festivals. Travelers were looking for safe places to visit during the pandemic.

“We also saw repeat visitors. Many who came for the winter events came back for the summer festivals, and vice versa. The friendly people at the visitor center and our shops and restaurants have made a great impression on visitors.”

Based on the many positive comments posted on social media and online sites, Bratten figures “we must be doing something right.” She said those community partnerships continue to be the backbone of their success.

“I’m hoping that more organizations and groups will develop events and programs that will appeal to travelers such as the StoryWalk that was developed by the Steubenville library,” she said, adding, “I’m really pleased at the collaborations that are going on — from the Harmonium Project, the fort, the Steubenville Cultural Trust, the Jefferson County Historical Association and more. This will be the key to success in the future.”

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