Riverfest, WEBN Fireworks 2021: Road Closures and Everything Else You Need to Know Before You Go

Riverfest-goers can expect to see half a million other humans and some major traffic jams in Covington, Newport and Cincinnati this weekend. Here's what you'll need to avoid and what you can't bring with you.

Rivefest fireworks over the Cincinnati skyline - PHOTO: CITYBEAT ARCHIVE
Photo: CityBeat Archive
Rivefest fireworks over the Cincinnati skyline

Riverfest is back, baby.

Launched more than four decades ago to celebrate the 10th anniversary of radio station WEBN (102.7 FM), this Labor Day bash officially signals the end of summer with a series of colorful explosions in the sky.

After canceling last year's large, public event due to COVID (they still shot off fireworks from a secret location), this year's 45th-annual celebration takes place Sunday, Sept. 5. Sponsors/hosts WEBN and Western & Southern say the party will kick off at noon at Sawyer Point and Yeatman's Cove, with Rozzi's Famous Fireworks starting at 9 p.m.

In addition to food, music and one of the largest firework displays in the Midwest set to music from host WEBN (you are 100% guaranteed to hear “Smoke on the Water”), festgoers can expect to see half a million other humans — and some major traffic jams.

The public can start claiming space at 7 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 4 on the Serpentine Wall downtown via tarp/blanket set-up. You can only secure your spot using painter's tape, gaffer tape or masking tape. 

All items entering Sawyer Point/Yeatman's Cove are subject to inspection. Find a full list of prohibited items — including oversized bags and backpacks, weapons, outside food and beverages, alcohol and musical instruments — at news.iheart.com.

Here are the road closures and other warnings you need to know about:

Cincinnati: 

Hot tip: Follow roadmapcincy.com for the latest traffic info.

  • The city is limiting traffic only to pedestrians on Third Street downtown and all streets north on Sept. 5.
  • On-street parking will not be available after 11 a.m. on Sept. 5 for any locations south of Ninth Street downtown.
  • The Clay Way Bailey Bridge and Taylor Southgate Bridge will close at 6 p.m. to vehicles and pedestrians, although the City of Cincinnati says, "Pedestrians may cross on the west side of the Taylor Southgate Bridge until 7:30 p.m."
  • Access to the Daniel Carter Beard Bridge and I-471 from Ohio will close at 7 p.m.
  • The Third Street exit off of Columbia Parkway westbound will close at 9 p.m.
  • The Third Street exist from I-71 south will close at 9 p.m.
  • The Purple People Bridge will be closed in its entirety for the fireworks (and not just because chunks of it have fallen into the river).
  • The Roebling Suspension Bridge is still closed for maintenance.

That's a lot of closures, so the city is recommending "everyone coming to Riverfest take advantage of the convenient parking facilities located throughout the downtown areas and walk to the Riverfront." City officials also suggest arriving early (events kick off at noon Sept. 5), and taking public transit.

Covington:

click to enlarge Map of the Impact Area for the fireworks - PHOTO: CITY OF COVINGTON
Photo: City of Covington
Map of the Impact Area for the fireworks

The City of Covington is issuing its typical rules and closures, which officials say in a release "apply in Devou Park and what’s called the downtown Riverfest Impact Area — the area north of East Fourth Street between the Licking River and Madison Avenue, with a contiguous section from Madison to Johnson Street along West Rivercenter Boulevard." 

This includes no booze on city property or in public (security will be checking coolers, etc.), unless you're bringing it to a private event within the Impact Area (you can bring that in until 6 p.m.). There are no skateboards, bikes, pets, Rollerblades, roller skates, personal fireworks, Lime/Bird motorized scooters or glass containers allowed in the Impact Area or on the floodwalls. Swimming in the Ohio and Licking rivers is prohibited during the event, as is mooring your boat along the Covington shoreline.

Also, an important note: if you park somewhere that says "No Parking," you will be towed. And if you park in a lot or parking garage in the Impact Area, you're stuck there until Covington Police say it's OK to leave and the area has been cleared of pedestrians.

Now on to road closures:

  • Starting at 6 p.m. Sept. 5, all streets north of East Fourth Street from Madison Avenue to the Licking River will be closed to vehicle traffic.
  • The Fourth Street Bridge to Newport will close at 8 p.m.
  • Madison Avenue will stay open until the parking lots and garages are full, or until 6 p.m. — whichever happens first. After that, the street will be closed to traffic north of Fourth Street.
  • Access to Devou Park, Kenton Hills and The Bluffs will be limited to residents and guests only starting at 2 p.m.  

Covington Police will also have a Command Center set up at the Northern Kentucky Convention Center. They'll be offering rides on a cart to those with disabilities. Call 859-409-8509 when you arrive if you need a ride.

Newport: 

Check out the full guidelines and prohibited items (same deal: no pets, no fireworks, no skateboards, no alcohol, etc.) at facebook.com/NewportPoliceDeptKY.

In terms of important closures:

  • Riverboat Row closes at 8 a.m. Sept. 5.
  • Columbia Street north of Fourth Street closes at 8 a.m.
  • Monmouth Street between Third and 11th streets closes at 7:30 p.m.
  • Dave Cowens Drive closes at 7:30 p.m. 
  • The I-471 ramps to Route 8 (Exit 5) close at 7:30 p.m.; all other I-471 ramps close at 8:30 p.m.
  • 10th Street between Saratoga and York streets closes at 7:30 p.m.
  • The Fourth Street Bridge closes at 8:30 p.m. (Covington says 8 p.m.).

Monmouth Street will reopen around 9 p.m. and change to a one-way road going south, with all traffic going to I-471. And all post-fireworks traffic west of York Street will be directed to 12th Street, en route to I-275.

Boats:

UPDATE: The U.S. Coast Guard reversed their decision and boats are now allowed because the water won't be as high.

No boats are allowed on the water during Riverfest this year. 

The U.S. Coast Guard has said "no vessel traffic, including commercial or recreational vessels, personal watercrafts or sailing vessels will be allowed to transit, launch, or leave any Kentucky or Ohio harbors or ramps" due to debris and rising water levels from Hurricane Ida. 

Health and Safety:

Hamilton County Health Commissioner Greg Kesterman does have a warning for those planning to attend: "If you have chosen not to get vaccinated [from COVID-19] and you're thinking about going to an event like this, you might want to think twice — particularly if you have some underlying health conditions that make you more susceptible to COVID-19."

During a recent press briefing about the rising COVID cases in the area, Kesterman said if you are vaccinated and are going to Riverfest, "apply common sense." "

"We ask that you wash your hands. We ask that you try and keep your group together and maybe social distance from other folks. And if you're doing these types of things in an outdoor environment, generally speaking, you'll be in good shape," he said.

If you don't want to deal with crowds — or potentially adding to the 5,700 active cases of COVID-19 within the region — you can watch the fireworks live on Local 12.


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