RIO GRANDE — This Saturday will be an exciting evening for Rio Grande as the village celebrates its seventh year of hosting the annual fireworks show “Rockets Over Rio,” and the University of Rio Grande honors the famed 2003 men’s soccer team who earned the college its first national championship.
According to Village of Rio Grande Mayor Matt Easter, the annual fireworks show — a celebration that is held every year on the Saturday evening of the Bob Evans Farm Festival — has grown each year since its inception, with this year’s show being hailed as their biggest yet.
“It has grown, and this year is a special year for the university,” Easter said. “It is the 10-year anniversary of Rio Grande soccer winning the national title, and a lot of players that were a part of that team — including those from overseas — are going to be announced out onto the field.”
According to assistant men’s soccer coach Tony Daniels, Saturday will be a day filled with soccer on the Evan E. Davis Soccer Field as URG hosts area high school teams who compete prior to the RedStorm’s men’s and women’s games that will be held that evening.
Beginning at 12 p.m., the high school teams of Waverly and Hurricane will face off, followed by a game between Circleville and Gallia Academy at 2 p.m.
At 5 p.m. the URG women will face off against Shawnee State University, and the URG men’s soccer team will also host the Bears beginning at 7 p.m. with “Rockets over Rio” to follow at 9:30 p.m.
Daniels reported that between the URG women’s and men’s game, the university will be inducting the 2003 national championship team to the Wall of Honor, and, of the 25 men who were a part of that team, approximately 14 of those players are coming to Saturday’s event, many of those flying in from abroad.
The 2003 team went undefeated that year, with a record of 24-0-1, and, according to Daniels, 10 years later, the members of that championship team are still connected, many of whom maintain close friendships.
“I think it’s a great honor. What these guys achieved in their career, and, to the seniors on team, the pinnacle was to win the National Championship,” Daniels said. “These guys are friends not only back then, but now. They still keep in contact with each other, and a lot of them have not been back here since 2003-2004. It’s a really good thing, not only for the university, but also the community.”
While the entire team will be honored prior to the men’s game on Saturday night, the ‘03 senior captain Steven Kehoe will be inducted into the University of Rio Grande Athletic Hall of Fame at halftime.
Kehoe was the MVP of the national tournament game and played a pivotal role in the 2003 season.
Mayor Easter, who is an avid supporter of the URG soccer program, also commented that, once again this year, Legendary Entertainment of Commercial Point, Ohio, will be providing the show for “Rockets Over Rio” and will also be aiding in the evening’s two induction ceremonies.
Easter was also happy to report that, once again this year, “Rockets Over Rio” will be held without the need for any village funds.
“This is another year where there are no tax dollars involved,” Easter said. “This is all put on without a cost to the Village of Rio Grande or the tax payers of this village. This is all done through donation. This is the seventh year of ‘Rockets over Rio,’ and probably the fourth or fifth that we’ve done it with no village money at all, and that’s from donations of 20 dollars up to 2,000 that have added up throughout the year to put on the show for the people.”
According to Easter, village officials begin working toward their goal of providing the annual fireworks show to the public early every year — an effort that always pays off as fireworks light up the valley that holds the URG soccer field and the adjacent Bob Evans Farms Hall parking lot.
We start working around January and we start a letter-writing campaign to everybody who’s ever given before, asking them to please give again,” he said. “I think that most of the people who come out to see it after they’ve given, it’s no problem getting them to give again because they realize their money went into a great thing. It’s a free evening for the public.”
With soccer, food and fireworks, Easter stated that he would tell anyone who has never attended the event that it will be an evening well worth their time.
“I would tell them that it’s not a waste of their time to come and see this. It’s not going to cost them a dime. A lot of people probably don’t have a lot of experience with soccer. That night you’re going to get to see guys play soccer that are really good and get a better understanding of the game, so come and support a local college, come support a local fire department,” Easter said. “Trust me, you’re going to walk away from that show and say, ‘this was worth every minute of our evening. It was not a wasted Saturday evening to come see this.’ I say, age one to 100, they love will it.”