Monday, September 03, 2001

Summer goes out with bang

Kaleidoscopic extravaganza was worth wait

By Cindy Kranz and Emily Biuso
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        About a half-million people gathered Sunday on both sides of the Ohio River downtown to say goodbye to summer under a dazzling fireworks display.

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(Ernest Coleman photos)
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        Riverfest marked its silver anniversary with Rozzi's Famous Fireworks of Loveland serving up the 30-minute grand finale under a gorgeous full moon.

        “It was better than last year's,” said Sandy Rehkamp of Erlanger, watching on the Newport side of the river with her husband, Mike, and son, Kevin.

        The intricate choreography of music broadcast on WEBN-FM (102.7) and Rozzi pyrotechnics was particularly spectacular on a rendition of “Over the Rainbow”. As promised by the Rozzi family, the show contained surprises and new fireworks that drew oohs and ahhhs from the packed riverbanks.

        Seven hours before the show began, the Serpentine Wall was a patchwork quilt of colorful blankets, some secured with masking or duct tape. People played cards, read books and listened to boomboxes to pass the time.

        Stanley and Pam Duncan of Lebanon nabbed a spot just west of the wall under the shade of the Taylor-Southgate bridge. They arrived at 12:30 p.m., about two hours too late to get a better spot on the wall, said Stanley, 50.

(Brandi Stafford photos)
        They've attended Riverfest 22 years because they are crazy about fireworks.

        “We just love it,”' said Mrs. Duncan, 48. “It's our thing. I always wanted my boys to marry into that (Rozzi) family. That's how bad we like it.”

        Nearby, kids threw footballs and Frisbees on the grass. Hours later, those same spots would be filled with wall-to-wall people.

        Danielle McClary, 21, of Norwood and friend Kori Farmer, 21 of Avondale, sat on blankets on the grass while Kori's brothers, Kevin, 15, and Kerry, 11, each played with a Game Boy. Kori's 2-year-old son, Khiry, happily ran on the lush green grass.

        “There's enough friendly people out here,” said Ms. Farmer, attending her first Riverfest. “Nobody is getting upset because he's walking on their blanket.”

        Ms. McClary and her fiance, John Paul Montgomery of Norwood, have attended the fireworks show the last four years. “They're really the best ones we've seen,” Ms. McClary said.

        This year, they arrived at noon to hear the band, BFE. They came armed with dominoes, checkers and cards. “Last year, it was a little long because we didn't bring anything to do,” she said.

        Vendors hawked everything from frozen lemonade to shrimp skewers to brats.

        Business was a little slow early afternoon at a beverage booth manned by the Norwood High School football team, so the teammates decided to have a little fun.

        Chris Long, a 16-year-old junior held a sign selling kisses by football players for $3..

        On the Kentucky side of the river, some people selling beverages weren't making any money — at least, not for themselves.

        Volunteers staffed the Cold Iron Concessions drink booths in Newport to raise money for local high school bands. Their work earned money from Cold Iron for uniforms, travel and other expenses.

        “We've been doing this for years,” said Jeff Stocker, an accountant for Cold Iron who was supervising the booths Sunday. “They're great workers. Everyone wins.”

        Lisa Mills, of Dayton, Ky., was selling bottled water to help out the Dayton High School band where her daughter, Amanda, is the color guard captain. This was her first year working the festival she's attended almost every year since its inception.

        She said she was impressed with how organized it was. “It's a lot safer, a lot more family-oriented,” she said, remembering the years when Riverfest was less regulated and allowed alcohol.

        Bob and Sharon Smith of Independence also were working Riverfest for the first time. They've been attending the festival for five years, and this year decided they'd sell homemade caramel apples and popcorn.

        It took them a-day-and-a-half to make 700 caramel apples in their kitchen. Bob, who works at Cincinnati-Northern Kentucky International Airport, and Sharon, a stay-at-home mom, were waiting to see how well the apples and popcorn sold before they decide if they'll work other festivals.

        “We're keeping our fingers crossed,” Mr. Smith said.

        Crowds were relatively orderly and police reported little trouble.

        By 10:30 p.m., Cincinnati police had made 33 arrests connected with Riverfest — most of them on open flask, disorderly conduct or possession of marijuana charges. There were two arrests in Newport, one for disorderly conduct and the other for assault, resisting arrest and intoxication.

        “It's been a very good event with very minor incidents,” said Lt. Kurt Byrd, Cincinnati police spokesman.

        The weather also cooperated with cooler temperatures. The high was 79 at 4:15 p.m., a relief from the sweltering high of 88 with a heat index of 100 at last year's Riverfest.

        Marie McCain contributed to this report.


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