RV’ers make festival an annual must-see

Some folks have discovered that camping out can be a great way to experience Marietta’s annual Ohio River Sternwheel Festival. For $75 they can park an RV for the entire weekend within a couple blocks of the Ohio River levee.

“It’s ‘dry’ camping-we don’t provide water or electrical hookups, but we have people who reserve one of the spots year after year, and every dollar helps with this event,” explained Kathy Shively, a member of the Sternwheel Festival Committee.

Dale and Linda Bailey from Wingett Run are among those who bring their RVs to town for the festival each year.

“This is our third or fourth time,” Dale said. “We enjoy meeting the other campers and get to see people we haven’t seen for some time. We reserve a spot here every year.”

The Baileys parked their RV among several others this year on a large grassy area just off South Third Street.

Next door was Wayne Everett from Leetonia near Youngstown, who’ve been camping at the festival for about eight years now.

“We pay a year ahead for a lot to be here during the sternwheel festival,” he said. “We just like to listen to the music, watch the fireworks and visit with friends.”

Everett said RV camping is much more convenient than having to negotiate festival traffic-especially on Saturday when the crowds swell due to the annual fireworks exhibition.

“It’s amazing what a vast sea of humanity those fireworks bring in,” he said. “So we get here early, set up our chairs and reserve a good spot on Saturday.”

Elaine and Tom Woolf of Sebring, Ohio, have also discovered the convenience of RV camping during the festival.

“We used to camp at Salt Fork Lake (state park) and would come down here to see the fireworks,” Elaine said. “I would see people camping here and said I have to find out how to get a space where we could stay for the weekend.”

That was several years ago, and the Woolfs enjoyed the weekend so much that they, too, pay a year ahead to reserve a camping spot.

Betsy Wheeler of Thornville, said her family experienced their first Sternwheel Festivals from a boat.

“We had a 22-foot boat and would hang out in the river around the entertainment barge,” she said. “We did that for about three years, but it would get so hot on that boat-then we started bringing our RV and camping out.”

Her friend Laura Hall of Dresden, is impressed by the way the local community makes them feel so welcome during the festival.

“And I commend all the people who live in this neighborhood,” she said. “They always treat us so nice.”

Not all campers come from a great distance for the festival weekend. Pete and Marylin Nonnenmacher live in the Stanleyville area, but reserve a spot for their RV along Third Street every year.

“We set the RV up and stay all weekend,” Pete said. “We just enjoy coming here and sitting and talking with our friends.”

Marylin said there are many people who live in or near Marietta and bring RVs to camp at the festival.

“We don’t have to fight traffic to get to and from the fireworks,” she said. “We can just sit right here and watch them every year.”

Mike Spahr, director general of the 2013 Ohio River Sternwheel Festival, said the RV camping has become so popular the committee opened the city parking lot at the corner of Second and Butler streets for campers this year.