Friday, August 29, 2003

Riverfest's best seats rock with the waves

By Brenna R. Kelly
The Cincinnati Enquirer

[IMAGE] Joe Gilb of Anderson Township sips a beer as he sits on his 40-foot houseboat moored on the Newport bank of the Ohio River where he arrived Monday to claim a prime spot for the Riverfest fireworks.
(Patrick Reddy photo)
| ZOOM |
NEWPORT - When 500,000 people are searching for a parking place, riding a shuttle and trying to stake out a piece of grass for the WEBN/Toyota fireworks Sunday, Joe Gilb and seven other boaters will be enjoying the riverfront spot they've had for weeks.

For the past 19 years, Gilb, of Anderson Township, has been mooring his 40-foot boat, Carol J, on a muddy Newport riverbank for the big show.

"I don't know if it's any better than anyplace else," Gilb said, "but it's a little more convenient."

No bans on coolers here. No waiting in line for portable toilets. And when the fireworks are over, bed is only a few steps away.

"It's always the same bunch down here every year," Gilb said. They form a temporary community holding potluck cookouts and eating out together.

Boaters beach early - some two weeks before the event - to get a good spot and have a quiet riverfront existence - until Sunday.

"My son at Ohio State is bringing half his dorm down," said Ron Klaas, of Withamsville, who had his 38-foot boat Nadine moored on the bank.

Having a boat at the bank can spike one's popularity, especially a boat like Janet Raker and Bill Ruehl's. The couple lives year round on their 641/2-foot yacht.

"We are stars right now with all our friends," Raker said.

"One year we had 68 people," she said, recalling the 68 lifejackets she had to find.

Because the boats are beached on the Newport bank, they can stay in the closed section of the river, from the Roebling Suspension Bridge to the Interstate 471 bridge.

And they won't have to fight the boat congestion on the river. The U.S. Coast Guard expects 2,500 pleasure boats to jostle for spots to view the fireworks.

To make sure those boaters are following boating laws, the U.S. Coast Guard, Hamilton County Sheriff's Office, Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife, Ohio Department of Natural Resources and Covington police will all have officers patrolling the river.

The biggest problem during Riverfest is congestion, said Lt. Chris Rose, of the Coast Guard's Marine Safety Detachment in Cincinnati.

"Everyone is trying to get somewhere quickly," he said, particularly after the fireworks.

E-mail bkelly@enquirer .com

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