Prepping for Roar this weekend

Organizers say everything is coming together for this weekend’s 14th annual Marietta Riverfront Roar powerboat races that kick off Friday along the Ohio River in downtown Marietta.

“We’re expecting around 24 powerboats, so I think we’re going to get in a lot of championship racing this year-the weather forecast is certainly better,” said Gary Williams, chairman of the Riverfront Roar committee.

Although festivities surrounding the Riverfront Roar took place in 2013, the powerboat races had to be canceled due to high water levels and debris floating on the Ohio River.

The river crested at more than 22 feet this time last year, but this year’s level is expected to be around 16 feet by race time Saturday and Sunday, according to the National Weather Service in Charleston, W.Va.

The weather picture is good when the Riverfront Roar festivities begin on Friday, according to NWS meteorologist Faith Borden.

“It looks like a fairly good weekend,” she said. “Friday should be sunny with a high of 84, then partly cloudy that night with a low around 58. And it will be in the upper 80s Saturday with a 40 percent chance of rain that night.”

Borden said the forecast as of Tuesday indicated a slightly better chance of rain on Sunday, with highs again in the upper 80s.

“All the preparations have been going good and they’re nearly complete,” Williams said, adding that the last committee meeting before the event took place Tuesday.

“We also had our safety meeting last week with Marietta and Williamstown,” he said. “And we can’t say enough about both cities’ willingness to help.”

Cheyenne Oaks is chairing the safety and security committee for this year’s event.

“Williamstown and Marietta police and fire will provide backup safety and security services, and the U.S. Coast Guard will be out on the water,” she said. “And Marietta Police and Washington County Sheriff’s officers will provide foot patrols during the event.”

Oaks said portions of Front, Second, Greene and Ohio streets would be closed from noon Friday through the end of the Riverfront Roar at 5 p.m. Sunday.

As in past years, race drivers will have their powerboats on display for the public along Front and Second streets Friday afternoon.

Construction on two major intersection improvement projects, at Acme, Pike and Jefferson streets and Seventh Pike and Greene streets, will cease over the Riverfront Roar weekend.

“The crews will work a regular day Friday, but there will be no construction the rest of the weekend,” said city Safety-Service Director Jonathan Hupp.

City engineer Joe Tucker noted some lanes would remain closed along Pike and Acme streets, which could create bottlenecks for the increased traffic expected during the Riverfront Roar.

“We would encourage local drivers to consider using alternate routes to help relieve any potential congestion when traveling to the event,” he said.

Tucker added that the gazebo near the levee on Ohio Street has been braced up and is currently cordoned off for repairs that will take place later this summer.

“There’s snow fencing and caution tape around the gazebo, and we’re asking people attending the Riverfront Roar not to climb over or under it and to stay out of the gazebo,” Hupp said.

Riverfront Roar Committee member Sam Gwinn said 12 vendors selling food and other items would be setting up on Greene Street between Front and Second streets Friday afternoon and would remain open through the weekend.

“And we want to emphasize the fireworks display that will be held Saturday night,” he said. “It’s a pretty good display. We always have a lot of good comments about the fireworks every year.”

Gwinn said the annual Riverfront Roar brings a lot of people into Marietta, including the powerboat drivers who have consistently voted the Pioneer City as their favorite on the racing circuit.

“They really like the way we run the races here, so we have a great relationship with the racers,” he said. “And this event is probably the second-biggest draw of all the county’s summer festivals, coming in just behind the Ohio River Sternwheel Festival.”

For the second year the Buckeye Outboard Association, a nonprofit, Portsmouth-based club formed by powerboat drivers, is coordinating the Riverfront Roar races, which are sanctioned

The Marietta Riverfront Roar was established in 2000 with a clear idea of providing local residents and businesses with a fun, entertaining and exciting weekend of powerboat racing and events.

The Roar is sanctioned by the American Power Boat Association and Buckeye Outboard Association.