If you live in Marietta, you don’t need much of an excuse to hang out by the river. A cool breeze and sunshine is all you can really ask for. Add in fiberglass powerboats screaming down the Ohio, however, and the rest of the Mid-Ohio valley joins you on the riverbanks.
Earlier this month, Marietta once again hosted the Riverfront Roar festival, closed down a few streets radiating away from the Lafayette and filled it with food trucks. The levee disappeared under blankets and lawn chairs in preparation for what some describe as “river NASCAR.”
Closer to a race car than the pontoon boats you can rent at the Marietta Harbor, these sleek machines look like something from the Hydro Thunder arcade game from my childhood. Fiberglass skips along the top of the water, with an enclosed cockpit akin to a fighter jet. Built slim for speed, I’m not sure there’s enough room for me to even get in the boat, although I could try with the league’s drivethisboat.com. Starting from the docks below the Lafayette’s parking lot, they zipped along an oval course designated by inflatable buoys with the bigger boats reaching 120 mph in the straights. With all of the spectators sitting in their own pleasure craft, anchored on either side of the track, it felt like our very own Mid-Ohio Valley Grand Prix De Monaco.
While the weekend was centered around the races, it was also an opportunity for the rest of the community to come together. The regular food trucks and snacks were there, but also a number of local artists and businesses set up on front street. Friday hosted five live bands and the Roar’s got Talent show. A 5k race opened up Saturday before opening ceremony. Between the heat races were more bands and even the Columbus Zoo Safari at the Armory, with fireworks rounding out the evening. Sunday began the full races for the three classes of boats and and a car show at the armory to help pass the time between races.
By now the boats are being packed up and the funnel cake truck is no longer parked on Greene street, but sounds of jet fuel-sucking powerboats and the community coming together to watch them are memories that won’t fade as easily. Riverfront Roar is just one of the many festivals that make living in the MOV so great, but it is arguably one of the best, if not the fastest.