Roar turned out better than expected

Last week’s rain dealt a blow to the Marietta Riverfront Roar, but it wasn’t a knockout punch.

Organizers are already looking optimistically to next year, with planning for the 2014 Roar expected to start in September.

“I think we’re in a good position going forward,” said Gary Williams, Riverfront Roar committee chairman.

High water and debris on the Ohio River led the Buckeye Outboard Association to cancel the high-speed powerboat races that anchor the event. In spite of this, music and other activities went on as scheduled and more than half the vendors originally slated to attend still set up on Greene Street in downtown Marietta.

“I would say overall the attendance was down, but certainly the attendance on Saturday night was equal to what we’ve had … and maybe even stronger,” Williams said.

The committee does not keep precise attendance numbers, but Williams estimated there were thousands of people downtown Saturday evening.

With no races to draw people in the middle of the day, some money that originally would have gone to drivers’ purses was used to bring additional acts to the entertainment slate and expand Saturday night’s fireworks show.

When the races were canceled, the 13 vendors signed up for the Roar were given the option not to come. Eight chose to set up for a reduced rate, said Sam Gwinn, concessions chairman for the Roar committee.

Dan Lang, owner of Uncle Dan’s Old-Fashioned Ice Cream in Lowell, said he briefly considered skipping this year’s Roar.

“It didn’t take long to change my mind because it’s close to home,” he said. “It turned out better than I expected.”

Gwinn said all eight vendors who came last weekend told him they would be back in 2014, as did those who sat out this year’s Roar.

“I pretty much got them booked for next year,” he said.

The Roar started last Friday with the Merchants and Artist Walk downtown. Rain that had been predicted earlier in the week to go away hung around for the early part of the evening. But as it lightened, the small crowds began to grow.

“We kept getting more and more people to come over for our entertainment,” Gwinn said.

Saturday’s Run for the Roar 5K drew 245 to 250 people, a record number for the event, Williams said. The Pioneer Corvette Club Car Show also brought several hundred people downtown Sunday, although not as many as in previous years when final races were held on the river that afternoon.

The cancellation of the races was announced about an hour after Adam Work, owner of Work’s Place on the Ohio River Levee, received a large shipment of food for the weekend. Coupled with Friday’s rain, his optimism for what is usually his business’ second biggest weekend of the year waned. On Thursday, he said the weekend went about as well as it could have without the boats.

“I made enough that I about broke even with the extra food I ordered,” Work said. “The weather went well for us on Saturday and Sunday – for the first time in three weeks.”

Money raised during the weekend events goes a long way toward the next year’s Roar. Despite the change in plans, Williams said he thought the fundraising this year was “comparable” to years past.

The committee may add a fundraiser or two during the year, but that began last year with an event at the Adelphia, Williams said.

“I think our fundraising needs will be about the same,” he said. “It all depends on what activities we have.”