Monday, September 04, 2000

Riverfest crowd struggles to beat heat

By Kristina Goetz and Marie McCain
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Boaters crowd near the Kentucky riverbank for a fish-eye view of the fireworks.
(Brandi Stafford photo)
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        With boats as far as the eye could see, picnic lunches, politicking and the biggest fireworks show of the year, it could have been only be one thing Sunday: Riverfest 2000 in Cincinnati.

        Hundreds of thousands of festival-goers on both sides of the Ohio River arrived early to nab favorite parking spots, eat brats, then oooh and ahhh over an explosion of brilliant fireworks.

        It might have been the area's big farewell to summer, but it felt like mid-July. Factoring in humidity, the 88-degree temperature equated to 100 degrees in Cincinnati just after noon, according to AccuWeather.

        It was a struggle for many to keep cool.

        Guys dumped their T- shirts, and kids ran barefoot, splashing each other with water bottles.

Sheila Tenhagen, of Burlington puts a damp towel over her face as she lays under umbrellas trying to escape the heat.
(Steven M. Herppich photo)
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        Drink in the scenes of Riverfest 2000:

        • Bill Hennegan, 67, and wife, Eileen, 64, of Wilder snagged premium space on the walkway above the Serpentine Wall by arriving at the Cincinnati riverfront at 9:30 a.m.

        “I've been attending Riverfest for 22 years,” Mr. Hennegan said. “Since it has been here (at Yeatman's Cove) this is my favorite spot.”

        The couple found a parking space near One Lytle Place apartments and walked to the wall.

        His co-worker, Brad Brown of Springboro, hadn't attended Riverfest for 20 years. He opted to come this year after Mr. Hennegan told him how family-oriented the event has become.

        “My friends and I used to go watch the fireworks on the Kentucky side, but I stopped going after two of them had their Walkmans stolen right off there bodies,” Mr. Brown said.

        Mr. Brown brought wife Rene, 37, and their two children, Ashley, 14, and Nick, 16.

        • Pat Knoll, co-owner of Mick Noll's in Covington, said the humidity made it a little tough to get the cotton candy going. But there were plenty of brats to be sold.

        Ms. Knoll said her husband bought 5,000 brats for the event, which they work every year: “We're prepared to sell enough. We never run out.”

        Super Brats, priced at $3.50, were served with a heaping helping of sauerkraut.

        “It makes for a delightful sandwich,” Ms. Knoll said.

        And, of course, water was a huge hit at $2 a bottle.

        • Delhi Township residents Laura Lenhart, 22, and Diane Burke, 22, use the event as a way to reunite old high school friends.

        “We come every year,” Ms. Lenhart said of the 25-30 people who usually show up. “We've been doing this since high school. More and more people show up every year.”

        Said Ms. Burke: “It's a tradition — and yes, we do all like each other that much. We watch the fireworks and then, when that's over, we head to my house and jump in the pool.”

        The group was somewhat disappointed with their location for this year's fest.

        “We usually get here early enough to get a spot on the Serpentine Wall. But, I guess as we get older we like to sleep a little longer,” Ms. Lenhart said.

        The group had spread blankets on the walkway just above the Serpentine Wall, using spray bottles and fans to stave off the heat.

        • At Mike Fink's riverboat restaurant, there were plenty of regulars who came out to eat seafood and watch the big show.

        “It's wonderful,” said Barry Tucker, assistant general manager. “We're ready to rock 'n' roll. We have oysters, clams, prime rib, crab legs, filet mignon. It's the best seafood in town.”

        But why do people keep coming back to the restaurant year after year? For the view of the fireworks, of course.

        “You're so close to them you break your neck looking up or the ashes fall all over you,” Mr. Tucker said.

        • The Labor Day weekend is the time of year Covington firefighters take to the streets with their big red buckets to collect money to fight muscular dystrophy.

        “Can you believe this?” firefighter Todd Whitaker said, laughing, as he stood in front of the Northern Kentucky Convention Center. “We waited until the hottest weekend of the year to do this.”

        As of mid-afternoon, they had already collected more than $15,000. They hope to raise $20,000 to give to the cause.

        • Vendors from Roses-O-Plenty had to ice down their long-stem flowers in a plastic bucket to keep them from wilting.

        Early on, vendors Ricky Lawson II and his friend, Joel Hermes, balanced the flowers on their fingertips to showcase their wares. But festival-goers seemed to be more interested in the ice than the flowers.

        “Hopefully we'll sell them before they go into full bloom,” Mr. Lawson said. “We'll sell them before the end of the night.

        “If there's a lot of romancers out here, then hurray for us.”

        • Long before bursts of living color filled the sky, some people were getting a taste of Cincinnati.

        South Carolina residents Steve and Roberta Richardson were in town visiting friends. They said they decided to head for Riverfest after seeing it advertised.

        Munching on brats layered with piles of sauerkraut they purchased from a Strasse Haus booth on the Cincinnati side of the river, the couple marvelled at the taste of the Riverfest favorite.

        “I've usually grilled brats at home. I've never had them boiled,” Mr. Richardson said. “The sauerkraut really sets the whole thing off.”

        • While thousands of people dragged their umbrellas, blankets and food to the banks of the Ohio River, Pat Flannery didn't have to leave home.

        He and family members sat on the porch of a Riverfront Drive home in Covington and talked politics. A few passersby commented on a sign hanging from the porch that read, “To live like a Republican, vote Democratic.”

        It was in reference, he said, to a line in President Clinton's speech at the Democratic National Convention when he quoted President Truman.

        While Mr. Flannery said he can't pay big money into political campaigns, he wanted to do his part in the democratic process.

        “I'm for Bill Clinton and the Democrats,” he said.

        The prosperity of the country ought to continue, he explained.

        “We ought not to run the risk of voting for a dummy.”

        And besides, the sign only cost him 30 bucks.


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