Saturday, September 04, 1999

The fuse is lit for Riverfest

Now's the time to head in (or out) of town

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Usually, when David Herriman of Covington invites friends to his Riverside Drive home on the Sunday before Labor Day, they ask, “How much?”

        Mr. Herriman, a real estate developer, has used the view from his deck for the annual Toyota/WEBN Fireworks as bait for political or arts fund-raisers.

        There's no charge this year. Mr. Herriman's simply throwing a party for 40 friends to celebrate what has become Greater Cincinnati's summer swan song — Riverfest. The main attraction — the fireworks — begins at 9:05 Sunday night. Some 500,000 are expected to watch.

        “It does signal the end of the season,” he said Friday. “It seems that immediately after the fireworks, the leaves start to turn. People come home. The symphony starts playing again. Playhouse (in the Park) opens. And, gee, maybe we can turn off the air conditioning.”

        Maybe. Temperatures for the three-day Labor Day weekend are expected to hit the mid-80s. The forecast is for partly cloudy skies, with humidity that will recall the discomfort of July and August.

        Larry Holly, 76, of Price Hill docked his boat — Jean's Tub, named for his wife — 14 days ago near Newport.

        He double-checked his fireworks-viewing supplies on Friday. Chips and drinks — check. Cookies — got those. Couch, TV, VCR, refrigerator, grill, several fans.

        “All the convenience of home,” he said.

        Many Greater Cincinnatians will really leave home this weekend, joining the near-record number of motorists expected on the nation's highways. They'll be paying more at the gas pump than they did a year ago. The average price of unleaded regular is $1.26 per gallon, 18 cents more than last Labor Day.

        Higher gas prices didn't stop Richard and Melissa Marback of Detroit from driving down Interstate 75 to visit her relatives in Covedale.

        “This is the last hurrah of summer. We love fireworks,” Mr. Marback said Friday afternoon on Fountain Square. Daughter Anna, 7, and son Karl, 3, munched on hot dogs.

        “I love Cincinnati,” said Mrs. Marback, a physician who grew up here and attended the College of Mount St. Joseph and medical school in Dayton.“We're going to the zoo. To the Museum Center. We're going to eat Skyline and Graeter's.”

        Kendra Moody, 26, of College Hill, braved the crowd three years ago to see the fireworks with her husband.

        Once was enough for her, at least for a few years. The Fifth Third Bank employee will visit her sister in Macon, Ga., this weekend. She'll be one of the estimated 34.8 million Americans expected to travel 100 miles or more this weekend, according to the American Automobile Association. That's the second-highest ever, trailing only the 34.9 million Americans who hit the road on Labor Day 1997.

        “The fireworks are so crowded you can hardly find a place to sit down,” she said. “I know it's a big weekend for people. It really is something a lot of people in Cincinnati look forward to every year.”

        Tom O'Neill and Cresta Williams contributed to this report.


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