Weekend for bikes, boats

Time to grab the kayak, tune up the bicycle, and raise a glass for the third annual Rivers, Trails, and Ales Festival which kicks off Thursday in downtown Marietta.

The idea behind the weekend festivities is to get people to go out and enjoy something Marietta has in abundance- outdoor activities, said event organizer Hallie Taylor.

“It sort of grew out of a natural need for more events taking advantage of great outdoor activities in our area,” she said.

Multiple trail rides, catering to riders of all skill levels, and paddling excursions on the Ohio and Muskingum rivers are planned for the weekend.

New this year will be a group trail run for all the running enthusiasts, added Ryan Smith, event organizer and owner of Marietta Adventure Company on Second Street.

In addition, favorites from previous years will be making a comeback.

The Paddler’s Dice Run will be taking place on the Ohio and Muskingum rivers all day Friday and Saturday. Festival goers can use a map to locate dice containers on the rivers and record their dice rolls to win prizes.

The Tortoise and Hare World Championships, a unique race that was specifically created for the festival, are not to be missed, said Smith.

The event features teams of two-a tortoise and a hare. The arena is an enclosed area surrounded by a track. Inside the enclosure, the competing tortoises have to keep their bikes in motion without putting their feet down as long as possible.

“The hare will be on a kid’s bike racing around the outside and the object is for the hare to complete as many laps as possible before the tortoise puts a foot down or goes outside the enclosure,” explained Smith.

The event will have a qualifying round Friday at 8 p.m. and the championships Saturday at the same time.

Additionally, the Armory lawn on Front Street will be transformed into Rivers, Trails, and Ales headquarters for the weekend.

During the day Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, the lawn will be the place to go for maps and information on area trails and attractions. On Friday and Saturday night the lawn will feature live entertainment and inflatable toys, said Smith.

This year will also be excellent for the festival’s beer enthusiasts. A handful of participating restaurants and bars will be offering Ohio micro brews not typically available locally.

“This year we’re doing a People’s Choice award for the featured beers. We’ll have a tasting car where people can go around and taste the different beers and rate them,” said Smith.

Live entertainment will also be featured during the Thursday night kickoff event at the Marietta Brewing Company and on Friday and Saturday at MBC, The Adelphia Music Hall and Over the Moon Pub and Pizzeria.

The festival will also be offering VIP lanyards which offer discounts at 25 area retailers throughout the weekend, including during Friday’s Merchants and Artist Walk in downtown Marietta.

The lanyards also include at least one raffle entry into the festival’s giveaway. The grand prize is a mountain bike and a kayak, said Taylor.

A VIP lanyard with one raffle ticket costs $10, a lanyard and five tickets costs $20, and for $30 attendees can also get a T-shirt with their pass and raffle tickets, she said.

The weekend’s grand finale takes place Sunday on the Muskingum River with not one-but two river races.

The Mighty Muskingum River Raft Regatta, held by Friends of the Lower Muskingum River, is now in its fifth year and has been a part of the Rivers, Trails, and Ales Festival all three years, said Jesse Daubert, watershed coordinator with FLMR.

The idea is for people to build a homemade raft to race down the Muskingum River from Indian Acres Park to the Historic Harmar Railroad Bridge.

“We get some really funny ones. One year Beverly Wastewater made (their raft) look like a toilet,” said Daubert.

The event appeals to people of all ages and prizes are awarded for the winner of the race in both a lightweight and heavyweight category, as well as awards for the winning youth crew, most creative and buoyantly challenged.

The event is a fundraiser for FLMR, which focuses on the health of the Muskingum River in the area.

Participants can register up to the date of the event, but are encouraged to pre-register at www.muskingumriver.org. The registration fee is $25 for individuals and nonprofit companies and $50 for businesses.

Organizers saw the event grow considerably between its first and second year and expect this year will be even bigger, said Smith.

“Each year we’ve had an overwhelming response. We’ve heard from a lot of people who are coming from out of town. Some are first timers and some came the previous years and plan to return,” he said.

For more information including a schedule and trail maps, visit www.rtafest.com.