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Steubenville City Council Chided for ‘Public Tirade’ on Nutcrackers

File Photo by Linda Harris

On a night when council bid goodbye to three of its members, the creator of the Nutcracker Village took members to task Tuesday for talking at their meeting two weeks ago about why so few of the life-sized creations were left at the fort without telling him first.

Mark Nelson told council his family and his business “have been the targets of an orchestrated attack from this very bully pulpit that has damaged my reputation, my business and a really, really great event.”

“This council has painted me out to be a grinch or the ‘Mr. Potter’ of Steubenville, and it pains me, because our family has always viewed Steubenville not for what it used to be but for what it can be,” he said. “…People have confronted my family and me, spoke ill words about us and vowed to no longer continue doing business with my company.”

The meeting in question, on Nov. 30, had featured off-the-cuff pleas by several council members urging Nelson and officials at Historic Fort Steuben to resolve whatever differences had led to roughly 180 of the Nutcrackers being relocated out of the park into the 100 blocks of North and South Fourth streets, and Market Street.

He complained council never reached out to his family or him to understand the whole scope of the story nor did it have the “professional decency” to invite him to be present during what he labeled “their public tirade.”

He said the fort offered him $5,000 to put 60 nutcrackers at the fort for the Christmas season but he turned them down, saying he’s never been paid, nor asked to be paid, for any nutcracker to be on display. And after that offer was refused, he said the fort offered to lease him the sidewalk and area around the fountain for $10,000, which he also declined because it didn’t include advent market chalets, restrooms, access to the Visitors Center, amphitheater or parking lots.

“We view this project as a continually growing event,” he said. “Following our original vision and goal of this grassroots project, we felt it unwise to invest in sidewalk rental but, rather, invest in more infrastructure, advertising, lights for downtown buildings, Christmas trees and, of course, more nutcrackers.”

“Since the first nutcracker was placed in the city, my family has designed and built over 185 nutcrackers which are valued at $5,000 per sculpture, not counting the economic impact to the community,” Nelson said.

“I personally have invested hundreds of thousands of my own money into the Steubenville Nutcracker Village. This event obviously takes place during the Christmas season, which is a time to gather with friends and family, and I and my family have sacrificed our time with friends and family as we have spent countless hours seeing that the project goes off without a hitch so that families from far and wide can come to Steubenville and enjoy the holiday event.”

In other business, City Manager Jim Mavromatis presented the city’s three outgoing councilmembers — 2nd Ward Councilman Craig Petrella, 4th Ward Councilman Scott Dressel and 6th Ward Councilman Bob Villamagna — with an engraved timepiece.

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