MARIETTA - It was a mix of newcomers and those who have never missed a festival who crowded onto Marietta's Ohio River levee Friday to mark the start of the 37th annual Ohio River Sternwheel Festival.
In some families, there were both.
Tim McNutt of Williamstown, 55, was at the festival with his 7-month-old granddaughter Layla, who was attending her first festival.
Photo by Sharon Bopp
Dignitaries, organizers and pageant winners take the stage during opening ceremonies for the Sternwheel Festival Friday.
"She'll like it real well when she sees the ducks," McNutt noted.
McNutt, on the other hand, has been to every Sternwheel Festival since the first one held in 1975, and said he still enjoys the sights and sounds of the crowd.
"We like to look at the boats and just come down and see people we know," he said.
Rodney, 58, and Annette Tibbs, 56, of North Ridgeville, are first-time festival attendees this weekend.
"We came down on bikes so it was fun," Annette Tibbs said.
The motorcyclists were staying at Marietta's Comfort Inn, along with 22 other couples who were part of their ride.
Rodney Tibbs' father was at the Sternwheel Festival about 20 years ago.
"My father built a model sternwheeler after he came down and saw them," Rodney Tibbs remembered.
While here for the festival, the Tibbs will take a trolley tour in Marietta and do a dinner cruise on the Ohio River where they will watch Saturday's fireworks from the boat.
"We're looking forward to that," noted Annette Tibbs.
For others, the weekend-long event is all about the taste buds.
Whether it's bloomin' onions, funnel cakes, strombolis or sausage sandwiches, everyone in the crowd has their favorite.
Raymond Mitchell, who has been heading to the festival each year for a quarter-century, plans to hit more than one concession stand over the course of the event.
"I enjoy any junk food, especially a stromboli and a Civitan sausage sandwich," said Mitchell.
Rodney Tibbs had already tasted a stromboli by Friday evening, and Annette Tibbs had a lemon shake sold by Marietta High School students.
"You have to support the high school," she said.
Dan Murdock, the proprietor of Murdock's Chuck Wagon Soda, is selling soda for the second year in a row at the Sternwheel Festival. He said he's happy to be in Marietta.
"I just like the area," said Murdock. "It's beautiful, and there's nice folks."
The festival officially began at 6 p.m. Friday with opening ceremonies on the levee.
After the American flag was raised by an honor guard from the Marietta Fire Department, the crowd hushed and placed hands over hearts as the national anthem was sung.
As the singing continued, a helicopter flew a large American flag over the downtown riverfront.
A highlight of the opening ceremony was the dedication of a page of the Sternwheel Festival program to Specialist Kyle Hockenberry. The dedication plaque was accepted by Hockenberry's father, Chet.
Hockenberry lost both legs and his left arm while serving with the U.S. Army in Afghanistan more than a year ago.
After the ceremony, attendees made their way to eat, listen to music or mingle in the crowd until they ran into old friends.
Marietta's Sternwheel Festival is time for reconnecting with family for Jackie Winland of Circleville.
Winland and her husband have stayed at the Lafayette Hotel during the festival for 15 years.
"What better place can you get to be in the middle of the action," she said.
In addition to enjoying many activities at the Sternwheel Festival, Winland said she also loves eating at favorite restaurants like the Marietta Brewing Company and Austyn's, and shopping at Twisted Sisters Boutique and The Fine Art and Framing Gallery.
Saturday's fireworks are another show stopper at the Sternwheel Festival. They're planned to go off at 9:30 p.m.
"I like that they put music on the radio that goes with the fireworks," McNutt noted.
Kevin Jackson of Marietta, 25, remembers one of the years the fireworks were done off the Williamstown Bridge, with a "waterfall" flowing from the bridge to the river below.
"That was really neat," said Jackson. "That's the first time I ever saw anything like that."