Ohio River Sternwheeler Festival Kicks Off This Weekend

Posted on:

< < Back to
A photo of sternwheeler taken during a past Ohio River Sternwheel Festival in Marietta. (
A photo of sternwheeler taken during a past Ohio River Sternwheel Festival in Marietta. (

This Friday the 41st annual Ohio River Sternwheel Festival will kick off in Marietta, opening the city up to an estimated 100,000 visitors for a weekend packed with free entertainment, festivities and, most importantly, historic antique sternwheel boats.

Nestled next to the banks of the Ohio River, the festival’s director general and fireworks chairman Dennis Blauser said that Marietta was the natural fit for the nation’s one and only antique sternwheeler festival.

“It all started right after the nation’s bicentennial,” said Blauser, who said that those who originally crafted the festival, Harry Robinson and Captains Gene Fitch and Bob Limle, were also heavily involved with Marietta’s own celebration of the bicentennial back in 1976. “They got together and decided that there should be a festival for sternwheelers outside of the nation’s bicentennial.”

From there the festival grew to the point that it brings thousands of people from outside of the Marietta area into the town to take part in a diverse array of festivities.

“Our festival is a traditional one that revolves around sternwheelers, entertainment, and, especially, fireworks,” said Blauser, going on to say that the large display, which is partially choreographed to music, is one of the largest in the entire Midwest. “It’s one of the finest displays that you’ll see in this part pf the country. I have been working on fireworks for 30 years, originally helping Harry Robinson and then taking over as the fireworks coordinator about ten years ago. It’s really something when you have the opportunity to put on a world class fireworks show in a little town like Marietta.”

The fireworks display will take place Saturday night around 9:30 p.m. after a particularly interesting free show, MJXpressions Presents: Michael Knight as Michael Jackson.


Knight has been studying the fascinating and captivating energy of the late, great Michael Jackson for years, even working with Travis Payne, the backup dancer and choreographer of Cirque du Soleil’s Michael Jackson IMMORTAL. He has also trained with MJ’s very own voice trainer, Seth Riggs.

Some of the other notable entertainment taking place throughout the weekend includes sets by up-and-coming musician Marc Scibilia, country western singer Canaan Smith and “America’s most exciting show band” Rick K. and the Allnighters.

Not all of the entertainment is strictly live music, however. There will also be a 5k, a Little Miss and Little Mr. Sternwheel Pageant, a photo contest, a Sunday sunrise service, the rollin’ oldies show, children’s activities and much more.

“The festival is a tribute to sternwheel boats, entertainment, food, fireworks and a general way to entertain your family for great weekend on the river,” said Blauser.

For more information, visit the event’s Facebook page.