Fish, boats, fun

Raptors, riverboats and radio-controlled sternwheelers were among the attractions during this weekend’s second Inland Waterways Festival at the Ohio River Museum in Marietta.

“The AEP towboat at the Ohio River levee turned out to be a great idea-they had just under 1,000 who toured the boat, and those people were then directed to the other festival activities here at the museum,” Dennis Cavalier, festival committee chairman, said Sunday.

American Electric Power provided free tours of the towboat that moored at the levee throughout the day Saturday, and company officials were pleased with the turnout, Cavalier said.

“A lot of people have lived along the rivers all their lives and see these boats moving barges up and down the Ohio every day, but many have never seen the inside of a towboat,” he said. “So AEP gave them that opportunity.”

Attendance was up, compared to the first waterways festival that took place in 2011, Cavalier said.

“On Saturday this year we probably had as many people as we had the entire weekend two years ago,” he said.

In addition to the towboat, free tours were also provided on the W.P. Snyder sternwheel towboat as well as through the Ohio River Museum.

One of the festival’s more popular exhibits included birds of prey from the West Virginia Raptor Rehabilitation Center headquartered in Fairmont, W.Va.

Raptor education director Sheila Armfield introduced the audiences to two birds that have been rescued by the rehab center-a screech owl named “Rupert” and a broad-winged hawk called “Neo.”

Armfield said both animals had been brought into the center after being struck by cars, which had impacted the birds’ eyesight.

“The rehabilitation center takes in injured or orphaned birds of prey, nurse them back to health, and then reintroduce them to the wild,” she said. “Last year we rescued 75 birds.”

Another highly popular animal exhibit during the festival was the ORSANCO (Ohio River Valley Water Sanitation Commission) portable aquarium.

Randy Carver, 9, and his sister, Zoe, 6, of Belpre were especially enthralled with a large, jagged-toothed muskellunge that shared the huge aquarium tank with a host of other species caught from local Ohio River waters for the festival by an electrofishing process Friday.

Their father and mother J.T. and Kristina Carver, said the Inland Waterways Festival had been an enlightening experience for the family.

“We’ve enjoyed it-there’s a lot to learn and a lot to take in,” J.T. said.

Joshua Dewyse with ORSANCO said the fish in the tank would be returned to the river Sunday evening. He said the commission keeps tabs on the Ohio River’s water quality through research on fish populations in the waterway.

He noted the presence of fish species like the redhorse sucker indicate that the river water is much cleaner than in the past.

“Over the last 40 years the water quality in the Ohio River has improved greatly and is continuing to improve,” Dewyse said. “Species like the redhorse are very sensitive to water quality, so it’s encouraging to be finding the fish in these waters.”

The Ohio River Minstrels-John and Gwenn Noftsger of Spring Valley, Ohio-provided music for the festival. John plays guitar and harmonica, while Gwenn accompanies on some unusual instruments, including a “string bass” made of a single string, one end attached to a hoe handle and the other to a bucket mounted on a board. She also provided some washboard percussion.

The couple also performed during the 2011 waterways festival.

“We loved it,” Gwenn said.

Other exhibits and presentations during the weekend festival included local river paintings by area artist Michael Dickinson, stories of the Underground Railroad by Annette Jefferson performing as abolitionist Harriet Tubman, and Stephen Hollen as Mark Twain.

Radio-operated scale model riverboats were also a top attraction as they maneuvered around the museum pool.

“This is all about the rivers and educating people about our river history. And we can’t get over how many people came out for the festival this year,” said Glenna Hoff, education and program director for the museum.

She said the festival is a good way for the museum to thank the local community for its support.

Cavalier credited the sponsors and volunteers for the second Inland Waterways Festival’s success. Those sponsors included AEP River Operations, the Washington County Library, Consol, Solvay, Amherst-Madison Coal Co., and the Ohio Humanities Council.