Festival thumbs up

The 2013 Ohio River Sternwheel Festival will likely take its place in history as one of the more successful since the annual events began 38 years ago.

“We’re really tickled-the weather has cooperated all three days and it’s been a great festival. And I’ve had a lot of people telling me the fireworks were the best we’ve ever had,” Mike Spahr, director general of this year’s event said Sunday.

Jeri Bless of Genoa, near Toledo, agreed.

“I used to come down for the festival when my kids were in college, but I hadn’t been here for years-it’s really taken off,” she said. “And I don’t think I’ve ever seen such a great fireworks display.”

Marietta resident William West said the skyshow was one of the best he’s seen.

“They were really nice, and I think they just keep getting better every year,” he said. “And it seems like the crowds are bigger every year, too.”

Susan Mason of Marietta said the pyrotechnics display included some special effects this year.

“Some were like 3-D effects and others seemed to be moving in slow motion,” she said. “And it looked like there was a record crowd Saturday night-I could hardly find a place to put my chair.”

Her son, Matthew Mason, 11, a former Little Mr. Sternwheel in 2008 rode aboard the Sewickley sternwheeler during Sunday’s annual Captain James E. Sands Memorial Sternwheel Races on the Ohio River.

“I was competing against my school teacher, Mrs. Cavalier, who was on board the Valley Gem-the boat we were racing,” Matthew said. “We kept waving at each other and laughing.”

Unfortunately the Valley Gem won Sunday’s race with the Sewickley. But Matthew wasn’t too disappointed as he also had a chance to play the calliope aboard one of the sternwheelers Saturday evening.

Spahr said business was brisk for the vendors who lined Greene and Second streets during the weekend festival.

“Many of the vendors have already paid ahead for next year,” Spahr said. “So that tells us we’re doing something right.”

Charlie Schwartz, who was manning the grill for the Marietta Civitan Club’s sandwich booth, said the sales were great.

“This was the biggest crowd I’ve ever seen at the sternwheel festival,” he said. “We had so many orders we ran out of supplies at one point Saturday.”

The Marietta Noon Lions Club also did well over the weekend.

“We were really busy Saturday night-we couldn’t keep up with the french fry orders at times,” said club member Randy Wilson.

Along with the sternwheel races and musical entertainment by Alfie and Omegas, John A. Walsh, The Chase, and the WannaBeatles, Sunday afternoon included a massive car show sponsored by the West Virginia Rollin’ Oldies Car Club.

“This is our 16th year at the festival, and we had at least 350 cars by 12:30 p.m.,” said Gary Paschen, the car club’s vice president.

Vehicles of every make and model were displayed on both sides of the first block of Second Street as well as on Greene and Butler streets and in the American Producers Supply parking lot.

“This is one of our biggest shows, and some years we’ve had 375 to 400 cars on display,” said club member Warren Brookover.

Paschen said the most expensive car in the show was a 2010 Bugatti worth $1 million.

There were no major incidents over the weekend, although there was an announcement prior to Saturday’s fireworks that a man who had some medical issues was missing. But he was located about an hour later at the CVS store on Third Street.

Spahr said the 2013 Ohio River Sternwheel Festival may be over, but work on the 2014 event begins soon.

“We’ll have a wrap-up meeting for this year in a couple of weeks, then the planning will start for next year’s festival,” he said.