No singular annual event typifies Cincinnati more than Riverfest, better known as the day we gather around the river and watch stuff blow up.
That ear-popping day is Sunday, and it'll mark the 28th time the fuse has been lit on the biggest fireworks display this region sees. It all started in 1977, legend has it, when Frank Wood, then-owner of Rock radio flagship WEBN, wanted to commemorate the station's 10th anniversary with a party on the river. He also liked to see fiery mid-air explosions, so he hired local pyrotechnic experts from Rozzi's Fireworks to put on a show. What he didn't anticipate was the turnout.
Media reports of the day say that tens of thousands of on-lookers gathered along the river to celebrate and walked away pretty happy with the explosive display. Or rather, they tried to walk away. Consider this zen "That's Soooo Cincinnati" moment: City officials were notified of the party and all the necessary paperwork was filed for the crowds along the river. But no one told one of the railroads, which left a train parked on the tracks separating the Serpentine Wall from downtown. Not surprisingly, some of the crowd's lunatic fringe disconnected train cars in order to get through.
In recent years, and once the city embraced Riverfest as a true iconic Cincinnati event regularly drawing half a million people, it inevitably became more family-friendly than the founding fathers at WEBN ever envisioned or wanted. Beer sales were dried up, and emphasis was put on attracting all walks of life, not just rowdy Zeppelin-listening 'EBN rockers.
Thankfully, Riverfest is only partially about the party on the riverfront. While that's clearly the epicenter for the display, folks all around the city have carved out their favorite vantage points on the city's trademark hills. Thus, people in Price Hill, Mount Adams, Newport and Ludlow celebrate Riverfest without ever leaving their neighborhoods.
The Tristate collectively pausing to bid farewell to another summer by listening to Rock and watching 50,000 pounds of fireworks go off in less than 30 minutes — that's soooo Cincinnati.
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