Banners were hung, more boats pulled into the levee and merchants readied their stores Thursday for the crowds expected to start pouring into Marietta today for the 36th annual Ohio River Sternwheel Festival.
The opening ceremonies are at 6 p.m. today but there was already plenty of activity downtown.
Sylvi Caporale, owner of American Flags, Poles and More on Front Street in Marietta, spent part of Thursday morning cleaning off the sidewalk in front of her store.
ASHLEY RITTENHOUSE The Marietta Times
Randy and Trina Richards, volunteers for the Ohio River Sternwheel Festival, unfold banners on a barge along the Ohio River levee Thursday. The festival kicks off this evening and continues through Sunday.
"People are always excited to come in - they look forward to it from year to year," Caporale said. "The spirit of downtown right now is one, being patriotic (because of the approaching anniversary of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001) and two, being ready for the guests that are coming to town - people from town and people from out of town."
The festival typically draws an estimated 100,000 people. It continues through Sunday.
Live musical performances, the Harry J. Robinson Fireworks Show, a car show and the Captain James E. Sands Memorial Sternwheeler Races are among the events planned. There will also be plenty of food vendors, children's activities and a visit from a special boat that isn't a sternwheeler.
If you go:
6 p.m. opening ceremonies.
7 p.m. Steve and Beverly Pottmeyer.
8 p.m. Stayin' Alive - One Night of the Bee Gees.
9:30 p.m. Jason Michael Carroll.
11:30 a.m. Introduction of Queen candidates.
Noon: Marietta High School Wall of Sound.
12:30 p.m. Jason Allwood Band.
1 p.m. Monday Calling.
2 p.m. Jason Allwood Band.
3 p.m. Justin Gutberlet.
4 p.m. Plan B.
5 p.m. The Chase.
6 p.m. Monday Calling.
7 p.m. Coronation and recognition of past queens.
7:30 p.m. The Chase.
8:30 p.m. Mike Albert and The Big "E" Band.
9:30 p.m. Harry J. Robinson Memorial Fireworks.
10 p.m. Mike Albert and The Big "E" Band.
8 a.m. Sunrise service.
9 a.m. Car show registration.
10 a.m. Alfie and Omegas.
11 a.m. Jennifer Simmons.
Noon: South of the River Band.
1 p.m. Captain James E. Sands Memorial Races.
2 p.m. South of the River Band.
2:30 p.m. Satisfaction: "The International Rollings Stones Show"
Road closures during the Ohio River Sternwheel Festival:
100 block of Front Street.
100 block of north and south Second Street.
100 and 200 blocks of Greene Street.
100 block of south Third Street.
On Sunday, the 200 block of Second Street will be closed for the car show.
"The U.S. Coast Guard cutter Osage is supposed to be arriving sometime Friday and they will be giving tours," said Cheri Seevers, director of the festival.
The Osage is a 65-foot inland river tender that pushes a 100-foot barge.
Sternwheelers started lining up along the Ohio River levee as early as last weekend; however, some captains have opted to move their boats to the Marietta City Harbor or leave Marietta altogether because of high water and debris due to recent rain.
Those who are on the sternwheeler Diana Jean, however, are sticking it out because, as Marietta resident Connie Hughes put it, they're having "too much fun."
They've also been hard at work, though, clearing debris from the boat's paddlewheel. She said they've all been taking turns clearing the debris, often staying up all night to do so.
"We had a log that busted our radiator (Wednesday) night," Hughes said. "People know the boats are here but they don't realize the work that goes into it."
Some people may not realize the work that goes into the festival itself, either, according to Seevers.
"We have a volunteer group of about 90 volunteers," she said. "A lot of the volunteers take vacation this week just to get things set up and torn down afterwards."
Among those volunteers are Devola residents Trina and Randy Richards. Trina has been volunteering with the festival for 15 years, while this is Randy's first year.
They are in charge of the barge on the levee that serves as the main entertainment stage.
"I love to give back," Trina Richards said. "We have a great group of people - like a family. I like to see the smiles on everybody's faces."
Marty Kitchen and her husband Howard Kitchen were all smiles as they spent time at the Lafayette Hotel Thursday.
There are about 25 people from their family, some who live locally and others who live in other states, who have gathered for the festival. As always, Marty has made lasagna, chicken and noodles and chili for all of them to enjoy.
"It's tradition - next to Christmas it's number two," said Marty Kitchen, 71, of Marietta. "For us, it's family, fireworks and food (that are the best parts)."
Some members of the family who live out of town are staying in a room in the Lafayette Hotel. Marty Kitchen said they've had one reserved for the weekend of the Ohio River Sternwheel Festival since about 1995.
As usual, the hotel is booked for the weekend, according to the hotel's general manager, Sheila Rhodes.
"We're sold out years in advance for the Sternwheel Festival," she said. "We have a waiting list (and) the people we're calling this year put their name on there in 2002 and 2003. We have close to 700 on that list."
"A lot of the rooms, the same guests take them year to year," Rhodes added.
The parking lot beside the Lafayette Hotel and the area behind the hotel will be by permit only during the festival; however, there will be free parking at the Washington County Fairgrounds.
Shuttle buses will leave every half hour from the corner of Front and Monroe Streets and will also stop at the Valley Gem parking lot 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. Handicap parking will be available at the J.D. Byrider parking lot during the festival at no charge.
Several streets will be closed during the festival, including the 100 block of Front Street, the 100 block of north and south Second Street, the 100 and 200 blocks of Greene Street and the 100 block of south Third Street. On Sunday, the 200 block of Second Street will be closed for the car show.
Many of the roads closed at 5 p.m. Thursday evening and will remain closed through Sunday evening.