Photo Credit: Bruce Wunderlich,
Compliments of Marietta CVB
Sternwheelers in Marietta on September 8, 9, and 10, 2023
Each September, this river town comes alive for the biggest event of the year, the Ohio River Sternwheel Festival. The historic downtown district is normally a peaceful setting with specialty shops, restaurants, and activities, but this weekend converts to an outdoor stage for one of the biggest events in Ohio’s Appalachian country. The three-day event attracts people from all over the country and even foreign visitors who view historic sternwheel vessels against the backdrop of a preserved riverboat-era community.
During the festival, live music and entertainment abound throughout the town. The primary location is on a stage floating in the Ohio River at the historic riverfront levee right next to the moored sternwheelers. Families can bring their blankets, stadium chairs, and picnic items to enjoy while they lounge on the banks of the Ohio River and listen to live music and other entertainment. The riverfront is open to the public all day and into the evening, free of charge. Marietta also has multiple venues with live entertainment; most are within walking distance of the festivities.
The celebrations begin on Friday as several blocks of the downtown area are closed to vehicles and filled with arts and crafts vendors, food trucks, and carnival-type activities for people of all ages.
Festival events kick off on Friday afternoon as performers come to the floating stage while the street celebrations begin and last into the night.
Saturday features the crowning of Queen Genevieve & Little Miss and Mr. Sternwheel. Queen Genevieve is derived from a Native American word meaning “the gentle strength of our rivers.” The Queen Genevieve Pageant began in 1994, and pageant winners have been awarded over $102 thousand in scholarships since then. Saturday night, the sky will rain fire as festival attendees watch the premier fireworks show of the Ohio River Valley.
Sunday features two major events. The Rollin’ Oldies Car Show features over one hundred custom and classic automobiles. The cars will be located throughout the historic downtown district within walking distance of the levee. Sunday afternoon on the levee is the place to be for the sternwheel races as these historic vessels compete for the championship.
Additional activities will include photo contests, local and big-name entertainers at several venues in town, riverboat excursions on the community’s vessel, The Valley Gem Sternwheeler, and the town’s guided history and ghost tours. Knowledgeable visitors will allow some free time to explore Marietta’s historic sites. Campus Martius Museum tells the story of the founding of Marietta and the Northwest Territory. Indian Mounds are located throughout the town. Marietta is also home to unique museums located in historic homes, including The Castle Museum, Children’s Toy and Doll Museum, and The Peoples Mortuary Museum.
Schedules of activities and performers are posted at sternwheel.org and on Facebook at “Ohio River Sternwheel Festival.”