STEUBENVILLE - With an elaborate float, a status tour of renovations and a photo contest, the Grand Theater Restoration Project will be very much a part of the Christmas parade festivities in the downtown on Saturday.
Set to get under way at noon, the Eastern Gateway Community College Sights and Sounds of Christmas Parade is expected to have about 90 units moving down Fourth Street, beginning at North Street and ending at South Street.
And that procession will include a first-time Grand Theater float built and created by restoration supporter Francesca Carinci and John and Marianne Cooper, Carinci's brother-in-law and sister, with assistance from Scott Dressel, president of the Grand Theater board of directors.
COME AND SEE — Scott Dressel, president of the board of directors of the Grand Theater Restoration Project, will lead a tour of the renovation work accomplished at the Grand Theater at 121 S. Fourth St., Steubenville, at 2 p.m. Saturday as part of the Christmas parade festivities. The lobby will be open for free from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., with a minimum $25 donation for the guided tour. - Janice R. Kiaski
"This float has been a labor of love by my brother-in-law, who did the carpentry work, and my sister, his assistant," said Carinci, who helped with "the painting, drilling and grunt work."
"It has taken months, but it is now ready to hit the parade route. My dream was to have the Grand Theater have an entry in the parade," she said, describing it as "a monumental hand-built mini-theater with a curtain and hand-built stage."
Carinci is a board member of the Grand Theater Restoration Project and chairs the events committee.
"We bought the materials and just went to work," Carinci said of the project. "Mark Nelson donated the trailer, and the plans began to build a mini theater. The original theater seats that were salvageable were installed, and Scott re-covered them with material that is very close to the original. I found something very similar to old red velvet seat material. Scott also repainted the theater seats. There is a tiered platform and a stage," she said.
"We hope everyone comes to see it," Carinci said, adding that "Vernon Dell Tractor has graciously offered us the use of a generator to run the lights, and Ken Perkins has offered the use of his truck to pull the float."
With the theme of "A Grand Christmas," the float will have a people presence with music courtesy of the Grand Theater Band. The Balzano sisters of The Spinning Jenny - Angelina, Talia and Julia - will serve as the float queens.
At the Grand Theater itself located at 121 S. Fourth St., visitors can browse for free through the restored lobby during an open house from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. The lobby was unveiled during last year's Christmas parade.
A one-time overall tour for a minimum $25 will be held promptly at 2 p.m., according to Dressel.
"The tour is a $25 minimum donation to the project, and the donations help us keep the lights and heat on," Dressel said. "The tour is free with a membership in Friends of the Grand, which is also $25 a year, so you could join at one table, get your ID card and then walk over to the tour group at 2 p.m. Either way, it's a good deal and a chance to see all of the work going on," he added.
Dressel anticipates the tour will take at least an hour, maybe more depending on questions. Participants should dress warm and wear flat shoes.
"There are lots of stairs to be done," he said. "You may want to bring your own flashlight, but there will be some lighting everywhere we go."
Dressel said a lot was accomplished in the renovations department this year.
"We made a lot of progress in 2013," he said in citing a number of them.
"The asbestos abatement is done; the old elevator equipment has been removed; the front facades of the theater and annex have been cleaned; annex glass replaced; annex windows and trim painted; historic images installed in the annex sign; Grand signs are relit; and the chaser lights are fixed and running every evening," Dressel said.
"Our first parade float is being built; our engineering review was completed, and it was a good report; and the fly loft was found to be in much better condition than anticipated by the abatement contractors," he continued.
"The final laser scanning of the entire structure was completed and files sent to the architect. It was a very busy year with more to be done in 2014," Dressel said. "Next year we hope to complete the front facade masonry repointing and painting of the trim and get all the glass cleaned off and replacement windows in the third floor," he said.
Visitors to the Grand Theater on Saturday or throughout December and early January can be part of the second-annual photo contest.
"This year it will run into early January to give folks a chance to take photos over the Christmas and New Year's holidays," Dressel said.
"All you have to do is have your photo taken in front of the Grand Theater with the Christmas tree lights lit up and either post your photo on the Grand page or e-mail it to me at firstname.lastname@example.org," Dressel said. The photos can be of individuals, families or groups.
"All you need to do is take your photo in front of the lobby doors when the Christmas tree lights are on, which is between 5 p.m. and 10 p.m. daily," he said.
The rules are posted on the Grand's Facebook page - Grand Theater for the Performing Arts - Steubenville, Ohio.
All entries will be placed in a drawing to be held Jan. 11. The winner will receive a $100 Visa gift card.
The Grand Theater restoration project was launched in May 2010.
"The timeline of when it will be open is up to the community - the more support, the sooner we will open," Dressel said, noting "the Grand belongs to the community, and its restoration will make downtown a much more vibrant place to live, work and play."
Donations are always appreciated, Dressel said, and can be mailed to the Grand Theater Restoration Project office at 506 N. Fourth St., Steubenville, OH 43952. Dressel said checks can be made payable to the Grand Theater, and donations by credit card "can be made over the phone at my office or through Paypal securely online on our website at www.historicsteubenville.org."
For information, contact Dressel at (740) 632-2899.