Explore Harmar during festival

Harmar Days kicks off this morning, with businesses open, food vendors and crafters adding a little more commerce to Maple Street, entertainment, a free miniature steam train ride, and more.

But the annual festival is not just about having a good time. It is a way for the Harmar neighborhood to show off a bit, and raise money for some of the projects that make it a special part of Marietta and the Mid-Ohio Valley.

“It’s a small-town street festival all about our history and the trains,” said Chuck Swaney, president of the nonprofit Historic Harmar Bridge Company.

In fact most local residents probably know Harmar Days as the event during which the Historic Harmar Railroad Bridge is hand-turned by volunteers demonstrating the span’s importance for TWO forms of transportation in our region — the rails and the river. Money raised during the festival, such as the $5 charge for those who want to “ride” during the turning of the bridge, go toward the bridge’s preservation (and, perhaps, eventual improvement).

There is another idea afloat, however, and Swaney wonders whether the event might also generate some community partnerships that will move forward the renovation of the historic train cars at the western end of the bridge. That is going to take more than the amount normally raised by Harmar Days and other fundraisers, which covers just the basics for the bridge.

Use the festival as an excuse to explore the neighborhood a bit, if you have not already done so. Look around, see what sparks your imagination … see if there is something you can do. Or just use it as an excuse to take in a little more summer festival food. Either way, you’ll be on the right track.

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