Ashland, Ohio, resident Caitlin Drozin's parents had visited Marietta several times and she'd driven by the Pioneer City on more than one occasion.
But it wasn't until her father told her about the Rivers, Trails and Ales Festival that Marietta became a destination for her and her boyfriend, James Carey.
"This has kind of been our big event for the summer," said Carey, 25.
Sara McMahan, left, holds up a mirror so 5-year-old Sophi Paschal of Marietta can see how she looks in a gemstone headband made by McMahan’s mother B.J. Friday evening at the final Merchants and Artist Walk of the summer.
The Marietta Times
Drozin, 24, said she'd never ventured into downtown Marietta before Friday evening, when she, Carey and her parents were dining at the Marietta Brewing Company, one of multiple venues offering special drafts from various Ohio microbreweries.
"I like it. There's a lot to offer," she said.
She and Carey are planning to kayak and bike today, when there's less rain in the forecast but Friday's mild temperatures are still expected to be hanging around.
8 a.m. - Group meet-up for the 14-mile Lowell to Marietta paddle. Meet at the Armory lawn to drive up as a group or meet at the Lowell put-in at 9 am.
9 - Event headquarters on the Armory Lawn opens. Participants can pick up directions and head out on their own, or meet up at 10 a.m. to head out with a group.
Also at 9 - Marietta's Dragon Boat Team will offer dragon boat rides at the Marietta Harbor.
10 - Group mountain-biking and road-biking meet-up at the Armory. Three levels to choose from.
All day - Paddlers' Dice Run.
5 to 9 p.m. - Live events on the Armory lawn. The Tortoise and the Hare Race, acoustic band performances and other demonstrations.
9:30 - The Carlsons, performing live at the Adelphia Music Hall.
10 - Sacra Via, performing live at the Marietta Brewing Company.
1 p.m. - Check-in for the Mighty Muskingum Raft Race at the Indian Acres Boat Ramp.
2 - Mighty Muskingum Raft Race; boats will finish at the Historic Harmar Bridge. Spectators can watch from anywhere along the River Trail.
Also at 2 - Inaugural RTA Fest Kayak & Canoe Turn-around Race, starting at the Indian Acres boat ramp and heading upstream to Colegate and Muskingum drives, turn-around buoy and to the finish line by the new city dock at the Harmar bridge.
In its second year, the Rivers, Trails and Ales Festival celebrates aspects of Marietta and Washington County besides the historical that has long been the area's major claim to fame.
"I've spoken with several people today who are people that have maybe lived elsewhere and relocated back to Ohio ... and are used to having outdoor recreation activities (in) close proximity," said Ryan Smith, a festival organizer and owner of Marietta Adventure Company.
But it's not just regional guests the event is drawing, as Smith noted there are participants from New York City and the Pacific Northwest.
Elkins, W.Va., resident Gabriel Rogers, 28, admitted the festival wasn't the only draw for him - he wanted to visit his friend, Marietta resident James Maddox, one of the festival organizers - but said the festival made it "a great time to come."
"I like any sort of excuse for a community get-together, especially when it's getting together around healthy, positive activities ... anything that reminds us of the great natural areas that we have around here," he said.
Rogers said it's the kind of event that might entice him even if he didn't know someone in town.
"I'm always up for outdoors adventures," he said.
On Friday, the festival converged with the third and final Merchants and Artist Walk of the summer, to offer a variety of activities for local residents and out-of-towners.
It was a return engagement for Columbus residents Laura and Oliver Corrigan, who brought their three children along.
"This is where we honeymooned," Laura Corrigan said. "We come down here every year around our anniversary.
"We like coming here at this time because all the shops are open longer. We have a really good time," she said.
In addition to the usual compliment of merchants staying open later with artists of various media stationed at their shops, there was a concert stage and inflatable obstacle course set up on the lawn in front of the Armory, courtesy of RTA Fest.
Marietta resident Betsy Kalter, 57, was consulting her festival "VIP" lanyard for special discounts and deals at local businesses. She was still on her bike, having taken part in a beginners mountain bike class Friday morning.
"I still can't do any stump-jumping yet, but he introduced me to it," laughed Kalter, who usually rides on roads and bike trails.
Kalter was the only taker for Ken Kupsche's Friday morning class in the Armory parking lot, thanks to rain that discouraged some, but not all, of the participants in morning bicycle activities. Maddox estimated about 30 participated in the group ride.
"It didn't stop the hardcore guys. They were all out anyway," Kupsche said Friday evening as customers milled through the Cook's Shop, the Front Street business he owns with his wife, Dagmar.
Kupsche said he couldn't attribute the new faces he was seeing that evening solely to the different crowd the festival might appeal to because the Merchants and Artist Walks always bring a mix of regulars and newcomers.
"I think the good thing about Merchants and Artists is it's always bringing new people into town," he said. "People that are in the store right now, I recognize almost nobody. And that's a good thing."
The RTA Fest continues Saturday and Sunday. Saturday activities include a 14-mile paddle along the Muskingum River from Lowell to Marietta, group mountain and road biking rides and another Paddlers' Dice Run, along with live music on the Armory Lawn and at the Adelphia Music Hall and Marietta Brewing Company. Sunday's highlights are the Mighty Muskingum Raft Race and the inaugural RTA Fest Kayak and Canoe Turn-around Race.