Historic Fort Steuben at 120 S. Third St., Steubenville, is a happening place, especially this time of year at the Louis Berkman Amphitheater as the free Summer Concert Series continues to entertain audiences on Thursday evenings with a variety of music.
Tonight's concert at 6:30 p.m. is "Rock & Pop Oldies Night" featuring the Igniters, a rhythm and blues group that performed originally in the mid-1960s through 1970, known throughout the Tri-State Area for distinctive arrangements of great songs, according to promotional material.
But the concert series is but one facet of Historic Fort Steuben, which was touched upon when the 2012 membership dinner of Old Fort Steuben Project Inc. was held May 23 at Froehlich's Classic Corner in Steubenville.
Judy Bratten with son, guest speaker Lt. Jonathan Bratten
It offers special programs, tours and events, all in the name of "Keeping History Alive," the mission of the private, nonprofit organization dedicated to the preservation and promotion of Historic Fort Steuben and its place in history not just in Ohio, but the United States. And it now has the added responsibility of serving as the Steubenville Convention and Visitors Bureau to promote the city and its events and attractions.
By the way, upcoming events include Local History Day on June 16 and Ohio Valley Frontier Days on June 23-24. And Farmers Market is making a return to the South Third Street area in front of the fort, starting June 14 from 9 a.m. to 1 pm.
Judy Bratten, director, and Jerry Barilla, board president, welcomed the many supporters of the fort to the dinner where I sat at lucky table No. 13 with Tom and Tyra Timmons and their son Eric Timmons. I did come home with one Chinese auction item, but I couldn't hold a candle to Alan Hall, the director of the Public Library of Steubenville and Jefferson County.
Hall was a lucky winner of several prizes but he also was singled out for a surprise award for his outstanding contribution to the fort, serving as an interpreter and a tour guide for school field trips and visitors in addition to being the fort board secretary.
It was indeed a special day for Hall as he and his wife Barbara were celebrating their 31st anniversary.
Dave Nicholson, a retired teacher, also was singled out for a surprise award, commended for conducting the summer youth program for pupils in grades four through six. It's a week-long program that includes hands-on history, crafts, games, demonstrations and videos that recreate 18th century life on the Ohio frontier and runs for two sessions: June 11-15 and July 16-20, from 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. each day. The cost is $40 for the week of educational activities.
Nicholson also is a tour guide and helps on school field trips.
On an unrelated history item, Nicholson also is involved with the old Pleasant Hill Schoolhouse Museum project on state Route 213, Steubenville. When I spoke with fort board member Gloria Renda that night, she mentioned the museum is planning a block party there on July 14 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. so keep that on your summer calendar of fun.
In addition to the surprise awards, Bratten and Barilla expressed gratitude to the many volunteers, board members and community members who have worked together the past 26 years to, again, "Keeping History Alive!" as the organization has reconstructed the 18th century Fort Steuben that gave the city its name and has developed an entire block into a destination for locals and tourists.
The evening's featured speaker was someone Bratten knows pretty well - her son, history enthusiast Lt. Jonathan Bratten, who joined the Army National Guard in 2008 and went on to gain his commission as an officer in 2011. He is a platoon leader with the 262nd Engineer Co. in Maine.
Jonathan Bratten graduated from the Franciscan University of Steubenville in 2008 with a degree in history. He continued his studies at the University of New Hampshire in 2011 with a master's degree in history, focusing on colonial America. He has spoken at several academic conferences, most notably the Army Center for Military History's annual conference.
His topic was "In the Crossroads of Empire: The French and Indian War in the Ohio Valley."
The evening also included a moment of silence in memory of William Croskey, who served on the fort board and was someone who knew local history inside and out.
You can visit and tour the fort from May through October, Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Memberships and sponsorships are available with all contributions to Histroic Fort Steuben being tax-deductible. If you'd like information on supporting Historic Fort Steuben, the Summer Concert Series or purchasing memorial bricks, call (740) 283-1787.