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Steubenville’s Frontier Days combines history with fun

STEUBENVILLE — Judy Bratten likes to think of Historic Fort Steuben’s signature event, Frontier Days, as a little bit of history wrapped up in a whole lot of fun.

“The festival is our annual gift to the community,” said Bratten, executive director of the fort. “We don’t charge much, we don’t make any money on it. It’s (so) everyone has an opportunity to learn about our history in an interesting way.”

Frontier Days will run from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. today and from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m Sunday. After the gates close tonight, there will be a colonial dance on the front lawn beginning at 6:30 p.m.

There will be plenty of learning opportunities on tap — presentations on Chief Logan, Native American traditions, tours of the fort and land office, 18th century military drills and crafts, for instance — as well as purely-for-fun activities, like the always-popular tomahawk toss, scavenger hunt and Native American dancers.

The festival kicks off with an opening ceremony featuring participants marching through the site, a flag raising and welcome program. The Fort Steuben Chapter, Daughters of the American Revolution will lead the Pledge of Allegiance, with Jefferson County Commissioner Tom Graham presenting the national anthem.

Throughout the two-day festival there will be special presentations on the tragedy of Chief Logan and Al Fitzpatrick’s Wilderness Wars. Fitzpatrick, a Native American portrayer, has written a number of books about Native Americans in the Ohio Valley.

“Baron von Steuben” also will lead military drills throughout the festival. There also will be surveyors in period costumes recreating their role in frontier history, while crafts people will demonstrate the art of ropemaking and candlemaking, gunsmithing and blacksmithing. And on Saturday, Bratten said festival-goers can learn from flint knappers how to make arrow heads and spearheads.

Steve Free, an international award-winning Ohio folk singer and songwriter, will entertain the crowd Saturday afternoon.

Food vendors include Boss Bison Burgers, Desperado Dogs, Davis Food Express, Ziggy’s Elephant Ears, Janet’s Gelato, Tacos Jauarez and Gourmet Kettle Corn.

Each of the fort’s eight fully furnished buildings, the archaeology dig and the First Federal Land Office will have guides who can tell the stories of the people and artifacts that were there.

“Our history goes back 1,500 years,” Bratten said. “We’ve found Native American artifacts from that time at our archaeological dig, which will be open for people to see.”

The dig is sponsored by Franciscan University of Steubenville, but the class is open to anyone, she said.

“Hopefully, it will help people appreciate what our forebears endured before all our modern conveniences,” she said.

Admission is $6 for adults, $3 for children 6-12 and free for children under 6.