This month’s Irish-themed First Fridays on Fourth celebration in downtown Steubenville was a resounding success, attracting several thousand people to North Fourth Street to dance, sing, listen to live bands and enjoy good food on Sept. 7.
As part of a series of monthly celebrations aimed at revitalizing downtown Steubenville, Friday’s Irish Fest had its biggest turnout yet, drawing Franciscan University of Steubenville students and townspeople alike to share in the festivities.
Local food vendors in tents all along the 100 Block of North Fourth Street sold homemade breads, cupcakes and classic fair foods while others provided games and entertainment such as face painting, corn toss and chalk art. Many of the North Fourth Street stores stayed open later than usual to welcome the crowds and to give visitors a taste of downtown Steubenville.
The primary attraction of the evening was the music, performed on a large bandstand set up prominently in front of Leonardo’s Coffeehouse and the Steubenville Popcorn Company. Several different bands entertained the crowd all night with well-loved Irish songs and ballads, such as “Danny Boy,” while members of the audience danced along.
During his 7 p.m. performance on the main bandstand, fiddler Ben-David Warner spoke with great enthusiasm about the on-going project of revitalizing Steubenville. He dedicated the popular Dubliners song “Dirty Old Town” to downtown Steubenville, praising the First Fridays on Fourth series for its help in making the area a “dirty old town” no longer.
At 8:30 p.m., the Franciscan University Irish Dance Club took over the stage to dance for the crowd, accompanied by a live band and joined by several courageous audience members.
For Chloe Cross, a Franciscan University freshman, Irish Fest was her first experience of downtown Steubenville. “I enjoyed seeing the beautiful culture that is completely different from back home,” she said. “My favorite part was the music and watching people dance to it.”
The festivities continued inside Leonardo’s Coffeehouse, where large numbers of people gathered to enjoy ice cream, soda pop and specialty popcorn. Children were especially fascinated by the Tesla Coil science demonstration on the ground floor, which showcased experiments with electricity.
In the upper loft of the Coffeehouse, an Irish-music jam session took place, led by Franciscan University sophomore David Hahn. Beginning at 6 p.m. with fewer than 10 people, the jam session rapidly grew into one of the highlights of the evening, with fiddlers, guitarists and singers pouring in to participate in the music-making. Hahn described the celebration as being “a good show with fraternal camaraderie and song.”
The next First Fridays on Fourth celebration will take place on Oct. 5 from 6-11 p.m. The theme of the October celebration will be announced soon.