Inland Waterways Festival returns

The Inland Waterways Festival returns to the Ohio River Museum next weekend with the same focus as the inaugural event two years ago.

“The goal is really to educate people in a fun way about the inland waterways – the lakes, the rivers, the locks and dams – and how they’ve impacted” the nation and this area, said Dennis Cavalier, chairman of the festival.

That impact will be explored from economic, environmental and historical angles with a variety of activities and no cost for admission to the two-day festival.

A major new addition focuses on the economic side, with folks getting a chance to tour an AEP towboat – on Saturday, Aug. 3 only. Cavalier said many residents likely see vessels like it moving coal up and down the Ohio River.

“I think it’s going to be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for people to see one of these boats,” Cavalier said.

Due to the size of the towboat and the barge it must be attached to, it will be stationed at the Ohio River Levee. The rest of the weekend’s activities will unfold at the museum, located at 601 Front St.

On Friday, Ohio River Valley Water Sanitation Commission personnel will go out on the Ohio and Muskingum rivers, electrically stun fish in them, and place them in a 2,200-gallon freshwater tank that will be on display during the festival, giving folks a unique view of life in local waterways.

History will be addressed by local historians telling tales of the river, and Ohio storyteller Stephen Hollen as Mark Twain. While Hollen has performances scheduled at 4 p.m. both days of the festival, those won’t be the only times the famous author with deep ties to the Mississippi River will appear.

“He stays in character all day long,” Cavalier said. “As long as he has his costume on, he is Mark Twain.”

Annette Jefferson will offer a children’s program on the Underground Railroad in character as Harriet Tubman. At 7 p.m. Saturday, the subject will be covered in a different way by the play “Nothing Stops This Train,” presented by the Rivers Institute at Hanover College in Indiana.

“Getting across that Ohio River was a huge goal for” the slaves fleeing the South along the Underground Railroad, Cavalier said.

Artist Michael Dickinson, a former Marietta resident known for painting historical scenes of the area, will also be on hand for the festival. On Saturday, he will unveil a new painting, the first print he’s done of a Marietta scene in a decade. Exactly what it depicts will remain a mystery until then.

“It has to do with inland waterways, and it has to do with a historical area,” said Dickinson, 58, of Columbus. “It’s set in about 1960, ’61. It’s based on a family memory of mine.”

Other displays will include models of historic river boats in the museum pool, a lock and dam model from the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers and presentations by the West Virginia Raptor Rehabilitation Center. Replicas of historic whistles will be blown from a barge, and rides on a small steam launch will be offered. There will also be a line-tossing competition for adults and children, as well as childrens’ activities like dredging for carp eggs, storytelling and painting of mussels.

Cavalier said the festival would not have been possible without the support of the Washington County Public Library.