GALLIPOLIS —Name one thing that stays the same in 54 years? Even people, though they will deny it, change to some degree even if the change is confined only to gray hairs.
The 54th annual Gallipolis River Recreation Festival is not immune to change as it heads towards this year’s event, at a time when some area festivals are struggling to return, or have been discontinued, including the Point Pleasant Sternwheel Regatta.
Admission to the festival remains free, though one of the changes implemented this year includes what organizers are calling a small fee for parade entries which then goes back into the festival to help bring in new events. The new charge for the parade is $10 per vehicle and $10 per walking unit. The fee for members of the Gallia County Chamber of Commerce, which organizes “River Rec,” will pay $5 per vehicle due to the fact that often, those Chamber members are already financial sponsors of the festival.
“While the fee will bring more dollars into the festival, those dollars are being used to bring new events,” Elisha Orsbon, executive director of the Gallia County Chamber of Commerce, and member of the River Rec committee said. “On KidzDay, July 3rd, the inflatables will be free from noon until 10 p.m. We are able to offer this thanks to the support of two corporate sponsors, Jaymar, Inc. and Holzer Health System, as well as the additional funds from parade entries. Also new to this year’s festival is a circus side show. The circus will feature multiple acts like glass walking, bed of swords, contortion, and more. We have received positive feedback through social media regarding this addition. But it does come at an extra cost to the festival. The funds from the parade will also help fund the circus.”
Orsbon said the fees are being used to go directly back into the festival to not only help fund it, but improve the attractions. Speaking on behalf of the festival committee, she stressed this was not, in any way, implemented to diminish parade entries but to allow more free activities to be offered at River Rec.
The festival operates on donations from corporate entities, businesses and individuals and is assisted by roughly 15-20 volunteers.
“Those volunteers also request assistance from local groups and organizations,” she said. “The entire festival is orchestrated by members of the community who donate their time and ask for nothing in return to ensure this festival continues year after year.”
Though there are many expenses that come with a festival of River Rec’s size, the largest expense is the fireworks display.
“Not only does it cost more for them to be displayed over the Ohio River, but also because they are set off on a holiday,” Orsbon said.
General parade information is as follows:
The Gallipolis Independence Day Parade, typically one of the largest in the area, is scheduled for noon on Thursday, July 4. Deadline for parade entry is Monday, June 10. Even if entries are not being judged, those entries must register online prior to June 10 to be accepted into the parade lineup. According to the River Rec Committee, due to safety and efficiency issues, as well as complaints in the past, units will no longer be permitted to show up the day of the parade and be worked in to the line-up. All entrants must attend a mandatory meeting, as explained during registration, to receive a lineup packet. These meetings will cover efficiency and safety with topics covered by local police and fire departments. One of the safety concerns has been throwing of items from entries in vehicles when only walking units may pass out candy, pamphlets, etc. This rule is in place due to children venturing into the road after those items, reportedly almost being struck by vehicles on multiple occasions.
“We will be happy to discuss any changes and always welcome volunteers and their ideas,” Orsbon said. “You can also visit www.gallipolisriverrec.com to view the schedule and registration information.”
As for why the organizers of River Rec felt changes were needed to accommodate the needs of the festival and festival goers, Orsbon said, “The Gallipolis River Recreation Festival attempts to respond to the requests and needs of the community. Safety issues have arose over the years (regarding the parade), we are doing our best to address these issues. The community has requested the return of Free KidzDay, we delivered. The circus has been added to entertain community members of all ages. Both additions, come at a cost, hence the new parade fees.”
If anyone has any questions about the parade or the festival or wishes to volunteer to assist in planning the event, contact the Chamber at 740-446-0596.
Beth Sergent is editor of Ohio Valley Publishing.