It’s hard to believe the eighth annual Rivers, Trails & Ales Festival is almost upon us! Featuring Marietta’s most spectacular outdoor activities, the Rivers, Trails & Ales Festival (aka RTA Fest) is a grass-roots outdoor enthusiast festival that appeals to visitors and locals alike. Dreamed up by a few locals eager to share the Mid-Ohio Valley’s wealth of natural resources with the rest of the world, RTA Fest has become a staple end-of-summer festival that truly has something for everyone.
“RTA Fest is an opportunity for us to celebrate and share all of the outdoor activities as well as our beautiful, walkable historic downtown that we get to enjoy throughout the year,” said Hallie Taylor, Emeritus Director and one of the festival’s three founders. ” It brings a whole lot of friendly people to the area for the weekend to bike, paddle, eat, drink, and shop, and it also helps put Marietta on the map as an outdoor destination.”Thanks to the efforts of individuals like Taylor and her business partner Ryan Smith, and groups like the River Valley Mountain Bike Association, Marietta has been steadily growing in its reputation as Ohio’s number one destination for outdoor adventure. Home to more than 270 miles of off-road trails, two rivers, and Ohio’s only National Forest, the Mid-Ohio Valley boasts an abundance of natural resources.
RTA Fest weekend highlights all of the above, featuring premium road cycling, sick mountain biking, a myriad of paddling events, and plenty of local, craft beer. This year’s festival expands upon last year’s schedule, adding new RTA yoga events, more activities for the kiddos, and a brand new outdoor Beer Fest, featuring thirteen regional breweries. Festivities kick off Thursday night with a jam session at Gun Lock Park followed by the kick-off party at the Marietta Brewing Company and live music at The Adelphia. (Check out the RTA Fest website for the full schedule!)
To accommodate this year’s growth, the festival moved its headquarters off the Armory Square Lawn. “I am most excited about our expansion into the East Muskingum Park,” said Eric Dowler, Festival Director. “Each year we add more events and this year is no exception. There are 65 scheduled events and the large riverfront park has enabled this expansion.”
There are events like the family fun ride, scavenger hunts, gnome hikes, a bicycle parade, Strider and obstacles courses, and special craft activities during Saturday’s Beer Fest that will keep the whole family active and enjoying every moment.
Dowler, who began as RTA Fest’s Volunteer Coordinator, is dedicated to making the festival an amazing experience for visitors of all ages. “I’m excited to welcome people of all backgrounds and ages, from near and far,” said Dowler. “RTA Fest is 100% family oriented. There are events like the family fun ride, scavenger hunts, gnome hikes, a bicycle parade, Strider and obstacles courses, and special craft activities during Saturday’s Beer Fest that will keep the whole family active and enjoying every moment.”While some outdoor adventure festivals are focused on pushing the boundaries of extreme sport, RTA Fest’s events allow participants an opportunity to try something new in a comfortable way, an experience they can enjoy with others. It is this philosophy that draws folks to the MOV from all over the country each August.
“Having a slew of free group mountain biking, road cycling, and group paddle events is a strong driver,” said Dowler. “Additionally, our awesome downtown restaurants holding special events and live music, merchants with welcoming hearts, beautiful rivers that scream love and relaxation, and a consistent positive experience keeps folks coming in year after year. I was told a few months ago that a group from Colorado has family in Marietta and they’ve shifted their yearly visit to coincide with RTA Festival so that they can enjoy the festival with their family. How awesome is that?!”
Taylor said she’s seen the event become a cornerstone for other positive growth in the community that ties into outdoor recreation. “We’re really proud that we’ve been able to keep the Rivers, Trails and Ales Festival free and open to anyone that wants to participate, and none of it could happen without an army of volunteers. All 100+ volunteers know that they are an integral part of the event, and we all celebrate coming together to make this event happen.”
Which events should you not miss? Taylor said it really depends on your style. “One of the things I love about the events at RTA is that there are activities designed for people of every age and ability level. You don’t have to be a serious cyclist to get out and enjoy the festival. One event that was a new addition and a huge success last year was the kid-friendly Gnome Hike. The hike was a short 1 mile loop with gnome figures hidden along the way to look out for. It was a lot of fun!”RTAfest is a non-profit endeavor with most events (excluding the “Ales” events) being free to attend. All proceeds generated help benefit Marietta Main Street and the Marietta City Trail Fund. Want to help support the cause and ensure next year is bigger and better than ever? Contact Eric about volunteering and visit Marietta Adventure Company to buy some awesome merchandise!