When its final steel mill closed, foam and fiberglass helped an Ohio town recover.
The Washington Post has the story of the Steubenville Nutcracker Village, with 200 life-sized nutcrackers posed throughout town during the holiday season. Each of them are individually sculpted from foam and plastics, and painted and decorated by hand by the crew at Nelson Fine Arts and Gifts, a local business that had specialized in store fixtures and gifts prior to the nutcrackers' rise in 2015.
As Cathy Free writes in the Post, a decade after the final steel mill closed, the community had suffered and seen businesses closed, leaving empty storefronts downtown. Jerry Barilla, the owner of an appliance store, suggested festive nutcrackers to brighten up downtown during the holidays. Mark Nelson, the owner of Nelson Gifts, said his company's equipment could make them.
Nelson turned to Brodie Stutzman, a recent college graduate with a degree in biology, who had been doing small tasks for the business. As he began shaping the foam, his "hidden talents" were uncovered. Stutzman is now "master carver" for Nutcracker Village and has formed and decorated each of the pieces.
The nutcracker scheme seems to have worked, Free writes, with new businesses drawn to town thanks to the display.
The Nutcracker Village will remain open through Jan. 6.