One of the highlights of the 2012 Ohio River Sternwheel Festival is expected to be the annual fireworks display Saturday night in downtown Marietta.
The Harry J. Robinson Fireworks Display will be presented from 9:30 to 10 p.m. Saturday in the sky over the Ohio River as the fireworks are fired from a barge on the water.
After 30 years under the direction of Robinson, who died in 2011, the fireworks program is in its seventh year under the direction of fireworks chairman Dennis Blauser.
"We have an exciting plan for the fireworks," Blauser said. "We've been working on it since last year."
Blauser has been involved with the Sternwheel Festival committee since 1981. He became facilities chairman in 1985, which included working on the closure of the river and assisting with the fireworks planning. He worked closely with Robinson since that time to prepare for each year's fireworks display.
Thousands of fireworks shells will be launched during the fireworks display over the Ohio River levee. For the past 14 years, Pyrotecnico of New Castle, Pa., has been the fireworks company producing the Ohio River Sternwheel Festival fireworks.
Special to the Times
A variety of musical styles from local, regional and national acts will be featured during the 2012 Ohio River Sternwheel Festival.
- "Arrival: The Journey Tribute Band" will perform at 8 p.m. Friday.
The Ohio-based tribute band features founder Vic Harris on lead vocals and guitar, Andrew Kos on keyboards and vocals, Dennis Davis on lead guitar and vocals, Rick Arrendale on drums and Curtis Marazzi on bass.
- This year's headliner is country singer David Nail, who will perform at 9:30 p.m. Friday on the entertainment barge at the Ohio River levee.
Nail's albums include "I'm About to Come Alive" and "The Sound of a Million Dreams" and singles like "Red Light," "Turning Home," "That's How I Remember You," "She Rides Away" and "Let It Rain."
In 2010, he was nominated for an Academy of Country Music award for "Red Light" for Single of the Year. "Turning Home" was nominated for a Grammy in 2011 for Male Country Vocal Performance.
- Monday Calling will perform twice on Saturday, at 2 p.m. and 5 p.m. on the barge stage.
The duo specializes in performing mixed-genre adult contemporary music, from Linda Rondstadt and Reba McIntyre to Fleetwood Mac and Melissa Etheridge.
- Oklahoma musician Eric Himan will perform twice at the Sternwheel festival, at 3 and 6 p.m. Saturday.
Himan is a nationally touring soulful/folk/rock artist based in the Tulsa area. His songs include "Save the Afternoon" and "Holding Back the Years," his version of the Simply Red classic.
- The Chase will perform at 4 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Saturday. Based in Ashland, Ky., the group has been performing for more than 26 years, featuring the classic rock of the 1960s to the 1980s.
The band features John Griffiths on vocals, keyboard and guitar, Scott Martin on drums, Jeff Lewis on bass and vocals and Phillip Osborne on guitar and vocals.
- "Stayin' Alive: One Night with the BeeGees" will be presented at 8:30 p.m. Saturday and again at 10 p.m. following the annual fireworks display.
Capturing a full history of the Bee Gees, "Stayin' Alive" includes material from the 1967 breakout album "Bee Gees First" including "To Love Somebody," "Holiday," "Massachusetts" and continuing with the earlier "Words," "I Got To Get A Message To You" and "I Started A Joke."
- The Hadden Sayers Band will perform at noon and 2 p.m. Sunday.
A blues musician from Texas, Sayers formed his band in 1993. He self-released five CDs and toured the U.S. and several other countries before moving to Ohio in 2005. A year later, he joined the regional band Phil Dirt and the Dozers, which is also performing at this year's Sternwheel Festival, but continued pursuing his own music and interests.
- The regional group Phil Dirt and the Dozers will close out the 2012 Ohio River Sternwheel Festival as the final performance on the entertainment barge at the Ohio River levee at the foot of Front and Greene streets at 2:30 p.m. Sunday.
Based in Columbus, Phil Dirt and the Dozers describes itself as the "premier 'Rock 'N' R'oldies" review with music from the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s. The group, which formed in 1981, performs classic songs by groups like the Four Seasons and Righteous Brothers up to the Doobie Brothers and the Eagles.
The band members are Steve Cabot, Mark Frye, Tony Alfano, Craig Goodwin, Hadden Sayers and Tony McClung.
- Other local acts featured during the Ohio River Sternwheel Festival will include Steve and Bev Pottmeyer, Marietta High School Wall of Sound Marching Band and Premiere Show Choir, Alfie and the Omegas and Jennifer Simmons.
Sternwheelers of various shapes and sizes are expected to line up along the Ohio River levee in downtown Marietta to participate in the 2012 Ohio River Sternwheel Festival.
Captains of sternwheelers often travel hundreds of miles, either on the river or on the road, to attend the Sternwheel Festival in Marietta each year, with many of the vessels coming into town to dock at the levee in the week leading up to the event.
In addition to seeing a line of sternwheelers docked along the shoreline of the Ohio River levee during the three-day festival, visitors will also get to see some of them in action. Each year, a number of the sternwheel boats participate in the James E. Sands Memorial Race on the final afternoon of the festival. This year's sternwheel races will run from 1 to 2 p.m. Sunday.
The races are named in honor of James Sands of Marietta, builder and captain of the original Valley Gem Sternwheeler. He was one of the first captains to participate in the Sternwheel Festival and its sternwheel races, which were named in his honor following his death in 1998.
His son, J.J. Sands, continues to operate the second Valley Gem on the Muskingum and Ohio rivers around Marietta. The first Valley Gem was built in 1973 and its larger replacement was built in 1989.
On Sunday morning before the races, all of the captains who will be participating meet together to work out who will be racing in each of the six heats. The captains are familiar with the capabilities of their own boats and match up by speed and size in six different groups.
The course starts in the area of the Ohio River near the head of Marietta Island, upriver from the levee. The race runs for a mile-and-a-half downriver to the finish line at the downriver end of the entertainment barge where it is moored to the levee.
The races are a throwback to the Steamboat Era of the 1840s to the early 1900s when steamboats were a major transportation source for moving people and goods around the United States. Instead of being for fun, the steamboat races of those days were the main form of advertising for their captains and owners. The faster the boat, the more likely it was to be chosen to carry cargo and passengers.
Auto enthusiasts will have the chance to see a variety of local cars, trucks and motorcycles on the final afternoon of the 2012 Ohio River Sternwheel Festival.
The 15th annual Ohio River Sternwheel Festival Car Show will be Sunday in the 200 block of Second Street in downtown Marietta, near the Ohio River levee and all of the festival entertainment.
The car show will be from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday. The event is being organized by the Rollin' Oldies Car Club.
For those interested in participating in the show and showing off their automobiles, registration will take place from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. A free T-shirt and dash plaques will be given to the first 200 registered entrants.
The car show will be an open show to all vehicles and bikes. A $10 entry fee will be required. No judging will be take place, but there will be cash drawings.
There will also be door prize drawings during the show and entertainment by the Rollin' Oldies Jukebox. The North Pittsburgh Corvette Club will be bringing 18 cars to participate in the show.
Free parking will be available at the Washington County Fairgrounds during the 2012 Ohio River Sternwheel Festival.
Shuttle buses will leave every half hour from the corner of Front and Monroe streets to the fairgrounds and will also stop at the Valley Gem parking lot at 622 Second St.
The fairground shuttle buses will run from 5 p.m. to midnight Friday, 11 a.m. to midnight Saturday and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday.
Parking will be available on Second Street between Greene and Butler streets at a cost of $5. Handicapped parking will also be available at the J.D. Byrider lot at 200 Greene St. during the festival at no charge.
No parking signs will be displayed at 6 p.m. Tuesday on Front Street from Butler to Greene streets. The purpose of the signs is to allow 48-hour notice that the area will be a "no parking" zone from 5 p.m. Friday through Sunday, unless a permit has been issued and is displayed. Violators will be towed at their own expense.
The city parking lot beside the Lafayette Hotel and the area behind the Lafayette will be parking by permit only.
Free hotel shuttle service is provided to visitors staying in the following hotels: Best Western, Comfort Inn, Days Inn, Hampton Inn, Holiday Inn, Microtel Inns and Suites and Super 8. Ask the front desk clerk at a participating hotel for a weekend shuttle pass and details. Shuttles will operate from 4 p.m. to midnight Friday, 10 a.m. to midnight Saturday and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday.
The century-old family business is the fourth largest fireworks company in the nation. Pyrotecnico produces more than 1,500 fireworks displays each year in 38 states and internationally.
As it has in the past, the aerial display will be synchronized with choreographed music which can be heard on WNUS 107.1 FM.
One of the founders of the Sternwheel Festival, Robinson served as chairman of the fireworks committee since the beginning of the festival in 1975 and was responsible for choosing both the fireworks and the music. At the age of 83, he chose to make 2005 his last year as fireworks chairman, handing the responsibility over to Blauser. The fireworks display was officially renamed in his honor in 2005.
Throughout the history of the fireworks show, Robinson personally chose the music for the radio simulcast. He had a library of thousands of CDs from which he pulled the different types of music he wanted to incorporate, Blauser said.
Blauser is working with Pyrotecnico to jointly develop the musical accompaniment for the fireworks. Blauser recommended tuning in to WNUS at about 9:15 p.m. Saturday so listeners can hear the introduction of the event before the music and fireworks begin.
This year's musical accompaniment will feature the music of The Beatles and Jimmy Buffett. As part of the Buffett theme, Blauser said there will be some palm tree-style bursts in the fireworks display.
"I'm calling it the BB Fireworks (Beatles and Buffet)," he said.
Due to the fireworks preparations, the Williamstown Bridge will be closed to pedestrian traffic during the fireworks display. Vehicle traffic will be not be prohibited during the show.
The Ohio River will also be closed to river traffic during the fireworks display.
Heading into this year's fireworks show, Blauser said he wanted to highlight and recognize the longtime and ongoing support provided to the show and the festival by MIE vice president Burt Elliott, who provides the barges for the fireworks and other assistance.
"Burt, personally, is the man behind the scenes who makes the fireworks possible," Blauser said.
Prior to the festival, Blauser said Elliott and his personnel are responsible for acquiring barges, cleaning and prepping them, loading fireworks and equipment, transporting the barges to the site, retrieving them, unloading equipment, cleaning them again and returning the barges to service.
"He's donated a week of time of his personnel and equipment every year to make this show possible," Blauser said of Elliott's contributions. "He's been involved with this for over 30 years and has put smiles on the faces of over a million people in that time."
Blauser said the support of Elliott and others like him in the community is essential for the success of the Sternwheel Festival and its activities each year.