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Tourism up in Belmont County | News, Sports, Jobs – Martins Ferry Times Leader

by Arifa Rana

Nov 1, 2021
T-L Photo/ROBERT A. DEFRANK Belmont County Tourism Director Barb Ballint reports this past Wednesday on increasing tourism and interest in the county in the third quarter of the year.
ST. CLAIRSVILLE — Belmont County Tourism Director Barb Ballint delivered good news about the third quarter of 2021 when she spoke Wednesday to the Belmont County Board of Commissioners.
During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 little was happening and Ballint and the agency found inventive ways to promote Belmont County. She said she faced the opposite problem this year.
“I had a difficult time putting this report together for you all, because there were so many good things that took place in Belmont County July, August and September. I think everyone was ready to get outside. Everyone was ready to participate in community fairs and community events.”
She said there were multiple events representing the heritage and history of the area. Along the Ohio River, Shadyside held its Loop Festival and Martins Ferry hosted Betty Zane Days.
In July, the agency received funding from the Ohio National Road Association, which helped to make improvements on the historic mile marker at the courthouse.
“Through some grants and local funding we were able to replace the mile marker right here in front of the courthouse,” she said. “This was the groundbreaking area for the Ohio National Road, the first federally funded road in the country.”
The old marker is now located at the Belmont County Heritage Museum next door.
She said the Beast of the East baseball tournament also attracted teams and many stayed in the area. In Bethesda, Epworth Park’s annual Chautauqua Days went well, as did the newer Blame My Roots country music festival.
“The hills were full of people and visitors from out of the area,” Ballint said. “We passed out over 1,000 of our brochures. … They came to other places in Belmont County.”
The Belmont County Fair was also successful.
“They were blessed with beautiful weather this year,” she said.
More recently, the Barnesville Pumpkin Festival netted a record-breaking pumpkin and the weigh-off has had more than 50,000 views online, with 24,000 watching it live.
“I’d like to thank the volunteers that planned all these community events,” she said. “The uncertainty of the future, they still went ahead with their plans not knowing if those events were going to be well-attended, not knowing if they were going to be able to get their funding back through the participants in events, so I thank those people.”
The tourism council also worked with the St. Clairsville Area Chamber of Commerce during “Second Saturdays,” when a food truck and music were featured on Main Street to promote area businesses. The Heritage Museum was open and offered a series of speakers who touched on a variety of subjects including Belmont County Native Hopalong Cassidy, the Underground Railroad Museum, and others.
There are other online efforts to bring new tourists into the area, such as the “geo tours” where people find specific locations.
“Our geo tour continues to be extremely successful in bringing visitors to Belmont County. They are traveling throughout the county finding geocaches,” she said. “We were surprised to have visitors coming in to the office (to collect a tour prize) from San Diego, California. … They like our relaxed and unique atmosphere that we offer here in Belmont County, that’s why people are coming here.”
Many local residents are also taking vacations closer to home.
“I’m pleased to announce that we are finally getting some backyard tours. That means you guys are going out to your communities. You’re enjoying what we have to offer here. That’s one of the benefits and one of the pluses, I think, that came out of the pandemic. It made us appreciate what we have right here in our backyard,” Ballint said.
Upcoming holiday events to close out the year include Christmas in the Village of Powhatan Point on Nov. 13; Winterfest in Martins Ferry on Dec. 4; and the Victorian Mansion Museum in Barnesville will start its Magic of Christmas Tours on Nov. 27.
In addition, Ballint said close to a dozen new businesses opened in Belmont County during the pandemic.
The tourism office continues to reach out through social media platforms. More information can be found at visitbelmontcounty.com.
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