Canceled races won’t stop Riverfront Roar

MARIETTA – While the powerboat races have been canceled, the party will continue this weekend for the Riverfront Roar.

The most recent rains caused the Ohio River to crest just below 27 feet Thursday evening in Marietta. There’s only a 20 percent chance of thunderstorms today and Saturday, and the river is expected to recede.

But it won’t be low enough to make conditions favorable for the annual Riverfront Roar powerboat races scheduled for Saturday and Sunday. Because of that, organizers canceled the races, but concerts, a 5K, children’s activities, fireworks and a car show planned for the weekend are still happening.

Some entertainment offerings have been expanded, with musical entertainment on Saturday starting at 1 p.m.

Some streets will still be closed starting at noon today to accommodate food vendors and the Kids Zone, along with Sunday’s Pioneer Corvette Club Car Show. Closed will be Front Street from Butler to Greene, Greene Street from Third to Front and Second Street from Butler to Greene.

An additional portion of Front Street, from the post office to Butler Street, will be closed at 5 p.m. for a Columbus Zoo show featuring live animals that starts at 6.

At least three powerboats will be on display during the downtown Merchant and Artist Walk tonight.

Heavy rains this week were expected to leave the Ohio River too treacherous for the high-speed racing that annually draws thousands of people to the levee in downtown Marietta.

“The sanctioning body said ‘no.’ They felt like the conditions were too dangerous,” said Gary Williams, chairman of the Riverfront Roar committee. “I think people, when they see the river (today), will understand why the drivers didn’t want to risk their boats or their necks.”

The Ohio River at Marietta had risen to nearly 22 feet Wednesday afternoon, while the normal level for this time of year is 15 or 16 feet, according to officials with the Ohio River Islands National Wildlife Refuge. Tree branches and other debris were visible floating in the muddy water even before thunderstorms struck Wednesday evening.

According to the National Weather Service, the river was expected to crest at Marietta at 26.3 feet, well below the flood stage of 35 feet. Clear weather through the weekend should result in the level dropping, but not low enough to allow for a safe racing environment.

“If it’s up very high, we won’t be able to do it,” Jerry Book, commodore for the Buckeye Outboard Association, said early Wednesday.

Book cited difficulty getting boats into the water and said debris in the river could pose a problem. After looking at updated forecast data Wednesday evening, the decision was made to cancel the races, Williams said.

“The next race will be next year,” he said.