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Sternwheel Fest

45 years of Marietta event celebrated

MARIETTA — Good times were had along the river at the 45th annual Ohio River Sternwheel Festival in downtown Marietta this weekend.

Saturday, the river area was packed with thousands of people enjoying festivities and claiming spots along the bank to watch the evenings fireworks.

The fireworks show was planned as a “super show” in celebration of 45 years and because of missing 2020.

Thousands of firework shells were launched from river barges, including a variety of new shells made by Pyrotecnico of New Castle, Pa., who has been the fireworks company producing the Ohio River Sternwheel Festival fireworks for many years.

“They weren’t kidding about this year being spectacular,” said Parkersburg resident Christine Winter after the show. “These might have been the best fireworks I have ever seen.”

Photo by Madeline Scarborough Crowds of people could be seen Saturday afternoon enjoying the festival and claiming seats for the evening’s fireworks.

In memory of 9/11, the fireworks were themed “patriotic” and paired with songs that captured the “American Spirit.” There was a moment of silence offered during the show in memory as well.

While the festival attracts thousands each year, according to the Marietta Mayor Josh Schlicher, it was clear by the crowd gathered that this year there were even more than usual.

Other than the fireworks, those visiting Saturday got to be a part of the annual car show, the crowning of this year’s festival royalty (Anna Elizabeth Hunt), learn about the sternwheels gathered, eat festival foods and shop at gathered vendors.

Sunday, members of the Ohio River Sternwheel Festival committee deemed the event a success by nearly selling out of festival merchandise and several vendors sold out of their items.

“I think everybody has been wanting to get out and just get going again,” committee member Carole Walters said. “A lot of people missed not coming last year, they’re just happy to be able to get out to the Sternwheel.”

Photo by Madeline Scarborough Sternwheels like the Dixie and P.A. Denny could be seen sporting flags in remembrance of 9/11 on Saturday at the festival.

After 45 years of putting on the event, committee member Karen Wetz said the years of experience has benefited the event and made it successful.

“Some of it is from experience. It is a well-oiled machine, they have things pretty well set up. The weekends always seem to go off and do well, no matter what hiccups you have,” Wetz said.

With local businesses coming together in support of the event, Wetz said they helped by purchasing advertisements, boxes for trash, provided golf carts and donated funds.

“Most businesses are very good to us,” she said.

Balloon animals, dinosaurs, prizes and face painting were some of the events that 421 children participated in throughout the weekend.

Anna Elizabeth Hunt of Ravenswood was crowned by the 2019 Queen Genevieve Maci Westrick Saturday as the 2021 Queen Genevieve. She was accompanied on stage by her court, the Little Miss and Mister Sternwheel Forest Lee Abbott, son of Christine Hunter and Ronald Abbott of Chesterhill and Leighton Geese, daughter of Manoah and Joy Geese of Marietta and some previous queens, since it was an anniversary year. Hunt’s mother Mary Beth Hunt (Varney) was a Queen Genevieve herself in 1999.

Lisa Copenhaver, Sternwheel committee member, said Dino-ROAR! was the biggest hit among children. Life-size dinosaurs were walking amongst them while children roared, did their best dinosaur walks and even fed them snacks.

Although some volunteers weren’t able to make the event, Vicky Nash, chairperson for children’s activities, said people stepped up at the last minute which brought on some new committee members.

“Everyone that has stepped up to help has gone above and beyond to make it a success,” she said.

Candice Black can be reached at cblack@newsandsentinel.com.

Madeline Scarborough can be reached at mscarborough@newsandsentinel.com.

The fireworks were paired with music Saturday evening that matched the theme of “patriotic”. In remembrance of 9/11, the waterfall fireworks were paired with the song “Where Were You” by Alan Jackson.

Photo by Candice Black Stacy Link with Dino-ROAR! taught Maddea Ayers, 6, how to feed the dinosaur a snack Sunday during the Sternwheel Festival in Marietta.

Photo by Candice Black Amarianah Bryant, 7, marveled at the sternwheel boats which raced along the river at this year’s 45th Ohio Sternwheel Festival in Marietta Sunday.

Photo by Candice Black Taking place during the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, the Ohio River Sternwheel Festival was adorned with flags through the downtown Marietta area.

Photo by Candice Black Millie Nichols masked a new Spiderman, Briar Whitlatch, 9, at the 45th Ohio River Sternwheel Festival this weekend.

Photo by Art Smith Fireworks explode over the Ohio River Saturday during the Ohio River Sternwheel Festival in Marietta. The fireworks were launched from a barge in the river and from the Williamstown Bridge.

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