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Sternwheel ball will raise money for festival

To help raise money for the Ohio River Sternwheel Festival’s entertainment and fireworks, a 45th anniversary ball will be held at the Lafayette Hotel.

The doors for the semi-formal event will open at 6 p.m. Feb. 8, with dinner at 7 p.m. Silent and live auctions will begin at 8 p.m. with dancing to follow. The Band of Brothers, which plays classic rock music, will perform during the event.

Cindy Hall, board president for the festival, said the last ball was held around 2001.

“It’s been a while so we were thinking of fundraisers and thought this would be a good one,” she said.

The event was started by Harry Robinson, who founded the sternwheel festival.

“We wanted to continue that this year for the 45th year,” Hall said.

Attendees will have a choice of chicken or steak and the cost is $60 per person, $100 per couple or $450 to reserve a table for eight people.

To purchase tickets, contact either Hall at 740-350-5929 or Smrek at 740-678-0445.

Kim Smrek, co-chairwoman of the ball, said one of the reasons they are holding the event is because the festival has lost funding from former business sponsors.

“This will help with fireworks,” she said. “Every fifth year, we put on more fireworks than normal. Some will be shot off the bridge this year. We need $20,000 to do this.”

She said she wanted to bring the ball back to get people interested in donating to the fireworks.

“A lot of people come to see them and I don’t think they realize how much money it takes to put them on,” she added.

She explained that she has been to the Athens County Starlight Ball which raised quite a bit of money and she thought it would work for the sternwheel festival.

One of the live auction items is two passes to see the 2020 fireworks on the barge. Hall said people other than festival committee members are not usually allowed on the barge during the fireworks.

Other auction items include original framed sternwheel festival paintings and a weekend getaway to Canaan Valley.

The first meeting for this year’s festival will be held next week, Hall said. So far, she isn’t sure what bands will play during the festivities.

“We are hoping to raise $15,000 for the night,” Hall said. “But if people can’t come, they can make a donation as well.”

She said this will be the largest fundraiser they’ve held, alongside the 5K run that is held every May.

“We’re just starting to do a little more every year,” Hall said. “My plan is to have a spaghetti dinner or something like that.”

While plans have not yet started for this year’s festival, Hall said this should prove to be a huge year for the event.

“I don’t think we’ve ever gotten a head count of how many people attend,” Smrek noted. “It’s always packed every year, even when it rains.”

Michele Newbanks can be reached at mnewbanks@mariettatimes.com.

If you go:

• What: 45th Anniversary Ball for Ohio River Sternwheel Festival.

• When: Doors open at 6 p.m. Feb. 8.

• Where: Grand ballroom in the Lafayette Hotel.

• Why: To raise money for the 2020 sternwheel festival’s entertainment and fireworks.

• Cost: $60 per person, $100 per couple, or $450 to reserve a table for eight.

Source: Cindy Hall, Ohio River Sternwheel Festival president.

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