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Ohio River Sternwheel Festival underway in Marietta

Boats line the Ohio River levee Friday as preparations for the weekend festival conclude. (Photo by Janelle Patterson)

MARIETTA — For some, the draw is Saturday’s fireworks.

“I’ve traveled all over the world, and the (Ohio River Sternwheel Festival) fireworks are the best I’ve ever seen,” said Keith Snider, of Marietta. “My dad brought me, now I bring my kids. What we have here, Boston doesn’t compare–those last five minutes, the finale, it’s emotional.”

For others, it’s getting a chance to raise money for their community service group.

“It’s a privilege to be here and know this all goes back into our community,” said Lexi Ash, of Marietta, as she served Lions Club fries to Marietta High School Leo Club members Friday. “That was a really cool experience to get to interact with those students, we sponsor their club and to have multiple generations together–that’s this community.”

And for all, young and old, there’s the celebration of river commerce, the boats filling the levee, and the free entertainment weekend. The Ohio River Sternwheel Festival kicked off Friday evening and will continue today and Sunday, with up to 100,000 people expected to fill the levee area.

A couple stops at the Ohio River levee Friday during lunch to admire the view of boats gathered, children laughing and flags billowing in the midday breeze before the official opening of the 44th annual Ohio River Sternwheel Festival. (Photo by Janelle Patterson)

“I can’t wait for the music, for the Queen tribute,” said Evy Bryant, past director-general of the festival and active committee member for years. “This morning I got to take breakfast down to the captains. It’s just beautiful out here by the water.”

Larry Sloter, owner of the Busy Bee restaurant, said he was happy to be back in the restaurant’s mobile truck Friday saying hello to every passerby as Greene Street began to fill with attendees.

“That’s why we’re here, it’s for both the people you see every day and the ones you see once a year–the ones you sometimes haven’t seen since high school,” said Sloter, pausing between cooking cheese curds. “This brings us all out.”

For Dan Strecker, of Marietta, volunteering for his 35th year at the Civitan club booth, the sentiments were similar.

“Hearing the music and seeing all of the people here, it’s nice to be around all of this life,” he said.

Lions Club members Dennis Sipe and Lexi Ash serve Leo Club members from Marietta High School fries on Friday as the 44th annual Ohio River Sternwheel Festival kicks off. (Photo by Janelle Patterson)

“And if they call me Mr. Siddall, they were a former student,” laughed Mike Siddall, of Marietta, as he served alongside Strecker for a 24th year in the Civitan booth.

This year’s director-general, Cindy Hall, said she’s most excited for what happens after the tonight’s fireworks.

“I love the whistle of the boats, that sound of their horns is just breathtaking,” she said.

And despite dark rain clouds Friday evening as opening ceremonies began, the music, food and laughter of the 44th annual festival rang on into the night.

Janelle Patterson can be reached at jpatterson@mariettatimes.com.

Sternwheel Festival royalty thank sponsors and their families for support Friday during opening ceremonies for the 44th annual event. (Photo by Janelle Patterson)

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Today

* Noon: Marietta High School Wall of Sound

* Noon: Children’s Activities at the Gazebo on the corner of Ohio and Third streets

* 1 p.m.: Marietta High School Choir – Vocal Point

* 2 p.m.: Two Buds and a Slap Box

* 3 p.m.: Anthony Mossburg

* 4 p.m.: Four on the Floor

* 5 p.m.: Track 9

* 6 p.m.: Jake Binegar

* 6:30 p.m.: Anthony Mossburg

* 7 p.m.: Coronation of Queen Genevieve on the barge

* 7:30 p.m.: Jake Binegar

* 8 p.m.: Track 9

* 9 p.m.: Simply Queen

* 9:30 p.m.: Harry J. Robinson Memorial Fireworks

* 10 p.m.: Simply Queen

Sunday

* 8 a.m.: Sunrise service at the levee

* 9 a.m.-4 p.m.: Car show on Second Street in Marietta

* 10 a.m.: Alfie and Omegas

* 11 a.m.: Sons of Maverick

* Noon: The Settlement Band

* Noon: Children’s Activities at Gazebo on the corner of Ohio and Third streets

* 1 p.m.: Captain James E. Sands Memorial Races on the Ohio River

* 2 p.m.: The Settlement Band

* 2:30 p.m.: Motown Sounds of Touch

Source: Ohio River Sternwheel Festival Committee

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