Each year, the town of Marietta attracts many people to the area for the Ohio River Steernwheel Festival. The festival began in 1976 and has continued to grow and encourage tourists and those who live in Marietta to take part in the weekend’s activities. The festival is unique because of its location on the Ohio river and its orientation around the paddleboats. It was originally started to uphold Marietta’s well-known riverboat history.
Each year, around thirty sternwheelers line the riverbank next to an entertainment barge with live music playing for the duration of the weekend. The festival culminates with its annually choreographed fireworks show that are launched from a stationary barge in the middle of the river. Many people agree that the Sternwheel Festival fireworks are the best they have ever seen. The Sternwheel Festival has a Little Miss and Mister Contest, a pageant event for five to eight year olds. There is also a college scholarship winning pageant, called Queen Genevieve, for female candidates who are entering or attending college and are between the ages of seventeen and twenty-two.
On the last day of the festival, an antique car show and a sternwheel boat race are held. The car show fills Second Street with hundreds of people and shiny, antique cars. This is the same day of the boat race, when the sternwheels begin down river and head towards the bank where a cheering crowd awaits. They blow their whistles and race to the finish. Hopefully the Sternwheel Festival tradition continue for many years.