Dean Martin Festival – Steubenville, Ohio – My Experience

This post documents my experience on June 19, 2010.

When thinking of reasons to visit Steubenville, there are two things that come to mind.

The first are all the murals throughout the city.

And the second, of course, is…


You don’t have to resort to history books to realize that Dean Martin was born and raised in Steubenville. A walk through downtown should give you enough signs…

…in one store window…

…or another.

So it should be of no surprise that he’s celebrated each year throughout the city.;

The unique thing about this festival is that there are different venues where the events occur. The above pic, for example is the Spot Bar’s schedule. Here is where you’ll find the bands, impersonators and contests – the main entertainment.

But, unlike most festivals, there are other events that occur all over the city. These events mostly involve Deana Martin*, Dean’s daughter. Coming to Steubenville for this event, she performs at the Spot Bar, she attends a few dinners over the weekend and she appears everywhere from the post office to the local Kroger’s.

You would have no reason not to meet Deana during the Dean Martin Festival.

Absolutely none (obvious foreshadowing)

Although it’s a three-day event, we were only able to do a few hours of the festival, so they had to be special. The plan was to check out the Meatball Eating Contest, listen to some music and meet Deana at the end.

Once we were done eating a hearty lunch at the Grecian Food Festival on S. Fourth Street…

…we walked up a mere block to arrive at the Spot Bar.

;You could see the bar’s trapped-in-time feel as you got to the door.;

And even in the very small neighborhood bar, Dean made his presence known.

But the festival was separate from this main bar area. We climbed a few steps, noticed the souvenir table and then took a right to a mostly covered outdoor deck…

…where the Frank Gallo Band was playing.

Lucky enough to beat the crowds to come, we grabbed some chairs and listened to Dean Martin tunes as Frank sang…

…told jokes…

…played the trumpet…

…and inspired two women to get up and dance.

We loved it.

Soon there was an announcement for the Meatball Eating Contest set to start at 1. Around 12:30, I checked the list. Only two people had signed up for it. With the Greek food still digesting, I wasn’t sure what to do.;

But then I thought of the people enjoying themselves and the crowd in general. We were there to have fun. And this was free food, after all. Why was I even thinking?

And once the ink dried next to number 3, the people started pouring in. Empty chairs filled up and people pushed their way in. Occasionally a worker ran back and forth towards the small side deck. Something was happening to the long table back there.

The stage was being set.

Once another announcement was made, those recently arrived groups of people went to the bar and get their names on the list. They had to stop the 10-person competition at 11 participants.

As the time approached, Julia and I went to the back table while Mom held our seats. Julia held onto the cameras and I positioned myself behind the table with the other competitors…

…as we figured which bowl was ours…

…and met the enemy.

We were given 60 seconds to eat as many of the 10 meatballs as we could. The rules were simple: start when he said “start” and don’t use your hands.

So they got ready…

…and I got ready…

..and we started.

Now before I tell you if I won or lost, let me remind you that I ate all that food at the Greek Festival 1.5 hours before. Also, it was hot, I was parched and meatballs are rather hard to swallow without water (which is difficult to drink without hands)..

So I chewed…

…and chewed…

…and chewed…

…until a winner was declared and I still had 5 left…

…which I finished up after the competition, carrying the bowl around with me.With the competition over and the Frank Gallo Band retiring, the festival moved to the opposite side of the deck, which opened to a large stage and much more seating.

Here, we watched an act or two before the heat got the better of us.

Even with the Dean Martin hand fans, it was just time for us to move on.

So we headed out to meet Deana, briefly coming into contact with a familiar looking man on the way out.

Walking only two more blocks, we arrived at the Fort Steuben Visitors Center.

And, with a nice finish to our festival visit, we got to chat briefly with the lovely and charming Deana.

One thing that really made this festival special was talking to the people. We talked with fans, with coordinators and finally with Deana. Their enthusiasm and cheerfulness helped make the festival lively and fun.

And, in the end, I couldn’t help think that it was a reflection of Dean himself. Perhaps, if he was there with us that day, he would have had as much fun as we did.

I can only imagine.

* – the poster bears a misspelling. I spelled it right.