Sternwheel committee to hold fundraiser ball

MARIETTA — A committee of the Ohio River Sternwheel Festival is bringing back an old event to help raise funds for the 2020 fireworks and entertainment.

A 45th anniversary ball will be held 6 p.m. Feb. 8 at the Lafayette Hotel. Dinner is 7 p.m. at the semi-formal event that will include silent and live auctions at 8 p.m. and dancing to follow. Band of Brothers, a classic rock band, will perform.

The last ball was held around 20 years ago, according to Cindy Hall, board president for the festival.

“It’s been a while so we were thinking of fundraisers and thought this would be a good one,” she said.

The event was started by Harry Robinson, who founded the sternwheel festival.

“We wanted to continue that this year for the 45th year,” Hall said.

Attendees will have a choice of chicken or steak. Cost is $60 per person, $100 per couple or $450 to reserve a table for eight people.

To purchase tickets, contact Hall at 740-350-5929 or Kim Smrek, co-chairman, at 740-678-0445.

A reason for the ball is the festival has lost funding from business sponsors, Smrek said.

“This will help with fireworks,” she said. “Every fifth year, we put on more fireworks than normal. Some will be shot off the bridge this year. We need $20,000 to do this.”

She said she wanted to bring the ball back to get people interested in donating to the fireworks.

“A lot of people come to see them and I don’t think they realize how much money it takes to put them on,” she added.

The Athens County Starlight Ball raised a large amount of money, said Smrek. It might work for the Sternwheel Festival, she said.

Among items in the live auction are two passes to see the 2020 fireworks from the barge. Usually only festival committee members are allowed on the barge during the fireworks, she said.

Other auction items include original-framed Sternwheel Festival paintings and a weekend getaway to Canaan Valley.

The first meeting for this year’s festival will be held next week, Hall said. So far, she isn’t sure what bands will play during the festivities.

“We are hoping to raise $15,000 for the night,” Hall said. “But if people can’t come, they can make a donation as well.”

While plans have not been started for this year’s festival, Hall said this should prove to be a huge year for the event.

“I don’t think we’ve ever gotten a head count of how many people attend,” Smrek said. “It’s always packed every year, even when it rains.”

Michele Newbanks can be reached at mnewbanks@mariettatimes.com.