Parkersburg Homecoming Festival comes to a close

The ZZ Top tribute band ZZ-KC closed out the Parkersburg Homecoming Festival on Sunday evening playing a variety of ZZ Top favorites at the Point Park stage. (Photo by Brett Dunlap)

PARKERSBURG — Even with hot temperatures throughout the weekend, the 2019 Parkersburg Homecoming Festival came to a rousing finish as the ZZ Top tribute band ZZ-KC took to the stage at Point Park.

The band played a collection of ZZ Top favorites including “Pearl Necklace,” “Got Me Under Pressure,” “Cheap Sunglasses,” “Gimme All Your Lovin'” and more.

John Davis, of Vienna, has seen ZZ Top each decade since the 1970s and said the tribute band is one of the better ZZ Top tribute bands out there.

“They sound pretty good,” he said.

Davis had been to a number of events and concerts throughout the festival over the weekend. The festival was something to be able to go out and enjoy.

Around 4,000-4,500 rubber duckies were dropped Sunday from the Parkersburg-Belpre Bridge for the annual Rubber Ducky Derby during the 2019 Parkersburg Homecoming Festival. (Photo courtesy of Emilee Sturms)

“Why sit at the house when you can enjoy some music,” he said.

Davis said other festivals around the region offers a variety of shows and more to do. Some festivals won’t charge for parking.

“Here a lot of people won’t come because they have to pay that $5 to park,” he said.

He understands that money helps different groups but something else could be done to help those groups be able to raise money while allowing people to park for free which he thinks will bring more people in.

Davis understood that the Parkersburg Homecoming Festival has seen cutbacks and knows it is facing other challenges. He believes the festival needs to look at reorganizing itself and trying different things to be able to bring more people in.

Robert Shaffer, two-time National Flat Picking Guitar Champion, plays with Johnny Staats on mandolin Sunday during the 18th annual Johnny Staats Bluegrass Festival at the Point Park Amphitheater. (Photo by Brett Dunlap)

“They are trying to bring the community more together,” he said. “They need more to do.”

Sunday also saw the Chess Tournament, G-Force Strength Unit, a couple of eating contests, the 18th annual Johnny Staats Bluegrass Festival, the Rubber Ducky Derby Drop and more.

“Overall, everything went well,” said Parkersburg Homecoming President Woody Miller. “We have had some really good crowds.”

Miller highlighted the music throughout the weekend, the Kids Car Races, weightlifting, arm wrestling and more. The Kids Fest which was held Friday evening brought in around 700 people.

“We had a lot of families come in and it was a big hit,” Miller said.

People came to the Point Park Amphitheater on Sunday evening to see the ZZ Top tribute band ZZ-KC close out the 2019 Parkersburg Homecoming Festival on the riverfront of the Ohio River. (Photo by Brett Dunlap)

Organizers found out a couple of days before the festival that carnival rides would not be available this year, but did what they could bringing in inflatables and more to fill in.

“I think it went pretty well without (the carnival rides),” Miller said. “You do with what you have.”

Crowds dealt with high temperatures in the upper 80s on Sunday and high temperatures throughout the weekend. Miller said a lot of people waited until the evenings to come out when the temperatures started going down and things were cooling off.

One vendor described things as being really slow Sunday afternoon. He believed the heat kept many people away, but said it probably would have been that way regardless of where they were.

On Sunday afternoon, the 18th annual Johnny Staats Bluegrass Festival was held at the Point Park Amphitheater with Staats and other regional bluegrass acts participating.

Bob Thomas, of Parkersburg, looks at a replica ZZ Top coupe Sunday evening at the Parkersburg Homecoming Festival before the concert by the ZZ Top Tribute Band ZZ-KC. The car is a 1934 Coupe with a 350 hp engine with a 6-speed manual transmission. It is owned by Gary Stover, of Gallipolis, Ohio, with On The Go Transportation. The members of ZZ Top autographed the dashboard. (Photo by Brett Dunlap)

Melinda Barmann, of Marietta, was enjoying the music with friends.

“I enjoy the traditional bluegrass music and preserving it,” she said.

She has become a fan of Staats and tries to catch his performances at local and regional festivals.

“Absolutely Johnny Staats,” Barmann said of why she came out to the Homecoming on Sunday. “He is one of the treasures of the Mid-Ohio Valley.”

Bluegrass preserves the mountain culture through the music which can be performed with instruments, sung accapella or through instrumentals, she said.

“Some of the songs date back to the 18th Century, around the time Marietta was founded,” Barmann said.

She and her friends brought along special rags they could soak in water and put around their necks to help keep them cool.

“The weather is miserably hot for everyone so we are all in the same boat,” Barmann said.

One friend of hers said the Point Park Amphitheater was a better venue for the event than Bicentennial Park where it had been held for a number of years.

Glen Tracewell, of Wood County, also came out to hear Staats.

“The music tells a story,” he said. “The rock music doesn’t tell a story.

“These people are telling stories from back in the past.”

The heat was impacting him as well.

“It is not too bad sitting in the shade,” Tracewell said. “You just don’t want to move around too much.”

One of Sunday’s highlights was the rubber ducky derby, with officials dropping the ducks from the westbound lanes of the Parkersburg-Belpre Bridge whereas the drop usually occurs from the eastbound lanes so the ducks would go downstream.

A bottle test was done before the drop and the waterflow around the bridge would seem to carry the ducks in an upstream direction. Organizers put the boats in the water accordingly.

“Everything seemed to be heading north,” Miller said. “This is the first time we have ever done that.”

However, once the ducks were in the water they were once again heading downstream. Organizers moved boats and got the channel the ducks were traveling down moved around so they could be properly collected.

“With Mother Nature, you just never know,” Miller said.

Around 4,000-4,500 rubber ducks were dropped into the water.

“It was a bit down this year,” Miller said. “Last year, we had around 7,000 ducks.

“We are down a little bit.”

The top 10 ducks won a prize. Rachel Irvine of Parkersburg was the first-place winner and won a 2019 Hyundai Accent from Superior Toyota Hyundai. The other nine winners won from $1,500 to $100.

Miller hoped the people who came to the festival this past weekend had fun and were able to find things they could do with friends and family. The Homecoming Board tried to put on an event that was family focused. With their support, local sponsors and the community, Miller thought they did pretty good.

“The overall weekend was pretty good,” he said. “Where else can you go and do so much for free?

“The idea for us was to create a family atmosphere. That was our goal. I think we were pretty successful in that.”

The Rubber Ducky Winners were:

* First: Rachel Irvine

* Second: Wanda Shaffer

* Third: Shannon Farley

* Fourth: Terry Knox

* Fifth: Geoffrey Davis

* Sixth: Wanda Catman

* Seventh: Mark Allen

* Eighth: Dawn Rita Blatt

* Ninth: Watson (only name given)

* Tenth: Danny Bee