Most people know that Marietta is the first settlement in the Northwest Territory and that every second week of September, Sternwheel boats from across the country line up on the levee. Did you know that Marietta is also the number one destination for outdoor adventure in Ohio? Or that we have an entire festival dedicated to outdoor sports and craft beer?
Welcome to the Rivers, Trails & Ales Festival, dreamed up by a couple of folks who returned to the Marietta area after years away, eager to share the Mid-Ohio Valley’s wealth of outdoor resources with the rest of the world. Affectionately shortened to RTAfest by festival-goers, the weekend features premium road-cycling, sick mountain biking, beautiful rivers and streams for paddling, and an abundance of local craft beer. Participants can join in on one of the many group bike rides, paddling events, and other fun activities such as the bicycle parade and the tortoise and hare world championship. Locals and visitors alike are encouraged to cycle or paddle the day away before meeting back up downtown to explore and sample the local brew.
One of the keystone events is the Mighty Muskingum River Raft Race where teams have the chance to channel their inner Huck Finn and race their own hand-built and human-powered raft down the Muskingum River. Another favorite event takes paddlers through a series of locks and dams – the only remaining hand-operated lock system in the country – from Lowell to Marietta. This year’s schedule was the fullest yet, including a screening of “Blood, Sweat & Beers” at the Marietta Brewing Company, the first annual ‘Blessing of the Bicycles,’ and Bike Scavenger Hunt downtown.
“It’s really about exploring the whole greater Marietta area by bicycle, boat, or foot,” says festival director Hallie Taylor. “It highlights resources that are available here year-round.”
The festival is a product of several local forces coming together in beautiful partnership. Hosted through Marietta Main Street, the event is directed by Hallie, co-founder of Marietta Adventure Company, who plays a large role in coordinating the ‘Rivers’ and “Trails’ portion of the festival. The Marietta Brewing Company takes care of the ‘Ales’ events, beloved for their signature in-house brewed beers on tap and Ohio microbrews available by the bottle. Both the Adventure Company and the Brewery partner with local letterpress + design duo just-A-jar for the design of festival literature, posters and merchandise, including temporary tattoos, t-shirts, mugs, and even socks.
“This was our biggest year yet,” Hallie exclaims, “with over 400 people participating in the cycling events, and more than 200 taking part in the paddling events.” Over the past two years, they have added more family-friendly events to the schedule which has only increased the festival’s popularity. “We had out-of-towners who showed up with their bikes and kayaks in tow, and after the festivities, they were already recruiting more friends to join them next year!”
RTAfest is a non-profit endeavor with all events (excluding the “Ales” events) being free to attend. All proceeds generated help benefit Marietta Main Street, the Marietta City Trail Fund, and Friends of the Lower Muskingum River. Want to help support the cause and ensure next year is bigger and better than ever? Contact Hallie about volunteering and visit Marietta Adventure Company to buy some awesome merchandise!