Experts predict millions will travel over holiday

PARKERSBURG – Lower prices for gasoline can be expected at the pump this July Fourth holiday and the AAA predicts a large number of travelers will hit the road.

AAA Travel projects 40.8 million Americans will journey 50 miles or more from home during the Independence Day holiday, a 0.8 percent decrease from the 41.1 million people who traveled last year. The anticipated decline in holiday travel is mainly due to a shorter holiday period.

With the Fourth of July landing on a Thursday this year, the holiday period has returned to the standard five-day holiday, compared to the six-day period in 2012 when the holiday fell on a Wednesday, said Bevi Powell, vice president of community relations for AAA East Central. “The Independence Day holiday travel period is defined as Wednesday to Sunday.

“Although national travel is expected to be down slightly, we are still seeing an overall upward trend from the decade low of 29.8 million July Fourth travelers in 2009, said Jim Lehman, president, AAA East Central. “It’s not unusual to experience a slight decrease in travelers during years that have a shorter celebratory period.”

Powell said gasoline prices are slightly lower this year

“Gas prices are not a factor,” she said. “The year it is lower than last year. Today (Wednesday) it is $3.32 and it was $3.38 last year. For June in the Parkersburg area the average was $3.32 and last year it was $3.66, a significant difference.”

One area destination for the Fourth of July is Blennerhassett Island.

“Fourth of July is a good weekend for us,” said Pam Salisbury, activity director at Blennerhassett Island Historical State Park. “A lot of families have members coming in from out of town for a visit, and look for things to do; the island and mansion will be open.”

Salisbury said boats will leave for the island from Point Park at 11 a.m., noon, 1, 2 and 3 p.m. On July 4, 2012, Blennerhassett Island averaged 250 visitors a day for the holiday weekend.

Island visitors can bring a picnic meal to the picnic shelters and grill. On Friday, a dinner cruise on the Ohio River will coincide with the Point Park music series in Parkersburg.

Diners on the cruise will have an option of steak or chicken and they will be back in time for the 8 p.m. concert, a tribute to singer Michael Buble, Salisbury said.

On Saturday, the nature walk, “Trees Have Feet Too,” will be from 2 to 3:15 p.m. on Blennerhassett Island. Salisbury said the walk will be led by Emily Grafton, a local master naturalist.

The “Sunday Sundae Cruise” will be 6:30-9:30 p.m. Sunday, including ice cream and a sunset sternwheeler cruise around the island. The cost is $12 a person.