MARIETTA - Right up there with boats, music and fireworks when it comes to attractions at the Ohio River Sternwheel Festival are gyros, stromboli and lemon shakes.
"I like the food," said 6-year-old Peyton Davis of Parkersburg, when asked what her favorite things about the festival were, before pointing to the fried cheese curds her father Jeff was holding.
Indeed, mom Sarah Davis, 35, said with a laugh that part of the appeal of attending all three days of the festival is "just so we don't have to cook at home."
Sprankle’s Concessions server Diamond DuPont, center, hands a gyro to Marietta resident Luann Johnson, right, while server Ashley Sechler deposits the money in downtown Marietta during the 38th annual Ohio River Sternwheel Festival. (Photo by Evan Bevins)
It didn't take Mark Holland, 57, of Waterford, long to find something to dig into at the festival.
"Pulled pork from Cowboy Dan's - gotta have it," he said.
Whipple-based Cowboy Concessions has been serving food at the festival for 12 years, said Rene Warren, who owns the business with her husband "Cowboy" Dan Warren. They offer burgers, corn dogs and more, but Holland isn't the only one who favors the pulled pork.
"The big winner is the pulled pork sandwiches," Rene Warren said. "We do our own. We smoke 'em with hickory, use pork shoulder ... then add the Cowboy Dan barbecue sauce to it. That's what makes it good."
The weekend festival drew food vendors from the local area and beyond, including Sprankle's Concessions from Hubbard. The company started setting up its multiple booths at 5 p.m. Thursday, said its owner, a very tired Jim Sprankle.
"Gyros, lemonade, fries are probably our top three sellers," he said, noting the baked potato fries - topped with butter, sour cream, chives and cheddar cheese - seemed to have the edge locally among the specialty fries Sprankle's offered.
The company also added hot apple dumplings with ice cream and fried veggie trays to its offerings this year.
The Marietta Civitan Club and Pioneer Ladies Civitan sold hamburgers and hot dogs during the festival, but that's not what usually draws the most people to their stand.
"It's our Bob Evans sausage - that's what we're famous for," said Marietta Civitan President David Grimes. "Been doing it 50 years or more."
Grimes said the club would go through 20-25 cases of the sausage this weekend - that's 1,600 to 2,000 patties.
Another favorite stop for many attendees this year was Grandma Lamana's Famous Stromboli out of Canfield. Despite a variety of styles available, manager Kristina Molina said the original recipe - ham, salami, pepperoni and cheese - remained the most popular.