Sunday, August 31, 2003

Lots to celebrate

Riverfest: Weekend festivities

This is the day Cincinnati bids official farewell to summer with 500,000 of our closest friends. From much humbler origins in 1977, Riverfest quickly grew into a nationally ranked event, like other great Cincinnati festivals such as Oktoberfest and Tall Stacks. Twenty seven years has been quite a run for this summer-ending ritual, and as usual it's free admission.

The WEBN/Toyota Fireworks that will rocket skyward from six mid-river barges at precisely 9:05 p.m. are now computerized down to the nanosecond; the accompanying soundtrack, synchronized digitally. But the energy builds all weekend long, and the heart of Riverfest is still lodged in the low-tech spectacle of an entire region assembling on both sides of the Ohio River and packing riverside restaurants for festivities that literally light the night and it all comes together in roughly the same spot where Cincinnati's original settlers first came ashore more than two centuries ago.

It's a great weekend, Cincinnati has come through some rough times, so there may be a little extra cause to celebrate this year. Let's make the most of it, while we make an extra effort to keep each other safe. Alcoholic beverages on the road, on the bridges, on boats, on the riverbanks may pose the single greatest threat. A close second is congestion, at chokepoints when cars or crowds are in motion.

Keep in mind many downtown streets after 5 p.m. will be closed to all but pedestrians. The list of no's for items brought into the riverfront parks sounds long, but crowd control experts have found them to be time-tested necessities: no coolers, no alcohol, no glass, metal or aluminum containers, no umbrellas or grills, no pets, no bikes, skateboards, skates or scooters. We would add: no drinking and driving.

On this Labor Day weekend it isn't all happening on the river. Maestro Kunzel took the Cincinnati Pops Orchestra to Sawyer Point, Friday, for a free Concert in the Park, then Saturday night safaried uptown to the Cincinnati Zoo for another free concert and free admission to the zoo after 5:00 p.m. Coney brought the Over-the-Rhine duo to Moonlight Gardens on Saturday, hard-core time travelers can sample jousting at Ohio Renaissance Festival, and perhaps there's even something to celebrate at Reds vs. St. Louis games now that the home team's season will soon mercifully come to a close.

But it takes Rozzi's Famous Fireworks to send off summer with a proper 6,000-shell bang. It's not really a farewell. It's more like a fanfare promising more Cincinnati festivals to come.

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