Thursday, August 23, 2001

Boaters beat crowds to best Riverfest spots

By Terry Flynn
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        NEWPORT — For 24 years, Bill Groll has made it a point of being among the first in line for the Third Federal Riverfest.

        He beat the estimated crowd of 500,000 by picking his spot on the Newport shore Sunday, two weeks before the annual fireworks extravaganza.

        Mr. Groll, a 75-year-old retiree from Green Township, brings his 45-foot houseboat, This Is It, to a spot just below James Taylor Park every year and lives there for two weeks awaiting the show on the Ohio River that officially marks the end of summer in Greater Cincinnati.

[photo] Paul Koch (left) and Norm Mayer are early arrivals for the Third Federal Riverfest, Sept. 2.
(Patrick Reddy photo)
| ZOOM |
        This year's event takes place Sept. 2.

        Next to This Is It, Norm Mayer of Addyston docks the Runaround Sue, a 44-foot cruiser that is his year-round home.

        “My wife and I live on the boat at Catalina Harbour marina,” Mr. Mayer said. “We love it. We wouldn't live anywhere else. Coming here for two weeks before the fireworks is just more fun.”

        The Mayers have been coming to Riverfest for eight years, and always dock next to Mr. Groll because they know each other from the marina.

        “My wife (Sue) works for P&G in downtown Cincinnati, so she's actually closer to work for these two weeks than when we're in Addyston at the marina,” Mr. Mayer said. “I always have a number of tasks to do, and I have one of the bedrooms on the boat converted to a computer room so I can work while I'm here.”

        He's a teacher, employed by a national company that provides technical and computer instruction.

        “I travel around the country giving instruction, but I also do a lot of work at home,” he said.

        Mr. Groll, who is visited by most of his 10 adult children during the Riverfest weekend (Sept. 1-2), finds the Newport shore a relaxing interlude and thinks nothing of cruising up the river from Catalina two weeks in advance of the event.

        From the rear of his boat, nosed against the shore, you can sit back and have an unobstructed view of the entire Cincinnati skyline, even looking into the upper decks of Cinergy Field.

        “With the (Riverfest) fireworks set off between the two bridges (Taylor Southgate Bridge and L&N Bridge), we have about as good a view as you could ask for,” Mr. Groll said.

        In the two weeks before Riverfest, owners of the 10-15 boats who pull up to the Newport shore every year find time to visit shops, restaurants and other points of interest in Newport and Covington. They park their cars in the lot just above the river bank, coming and going as they please.

        Mr. Groll and Mr. Mayer, moored on the shore since Sunday, will be in no hurry to depart.

        “We don't leave until the next day, Labor Day,” Mr. Groll said. “There are entirely too many boats on the water after the fireworks. It's so bad, the people with boats docked at the marinas along the river have to hold onto their boats because of all the wake from the hundreds of boats going by, just to keep them from being washed up on the docks.

        “I don't want to be in that.”

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