Sternwheelers Roll on the River Into Wheeling for Annual Festival

Wheeling Intelligencer
12 September 2014
By Scott McCloskey, Staff Writer

WHEELING -With a cool breeze blowing off the Ohio River on Thursday afternoon, local pipefitter Russell Ostendorf and Doris Layne of Roanoke, Va. danced to the music of the Buffington Brothers near a row of sternwheelers docked at Wheeling's Heritage Port.

The vessels are docked at the port as part of the annual Sternwheel Festival, which celebrates the river and city's heritage. The event got under way Thursday and continues through Saturday.

Ostendorf said he and Layne decided to enjoy a bit of dancing near the waterfront after stopping down at Heritage Port to see what the festival was about.

Ed Biega, president of the Sternwheel Festival committee, said each year the committee tries to build on the festival, which began 12 years ago.

"We're hoping to get a nice crowd," Biega said. "We started this in 2002 and we had a lot of people involved."

Biega said the committee would like to see more local people get involved with festival to help make it bigger each year. He said the festival celebrates the heritage of the river and gives people an opportunity to take an up-close look at the vessels and hear free entertainment.

The Sternwheel Festival is sanctioned by the American Sternwheel Association, an organization dedicated to the support and promotion of sternwheel vessels. Biega said most of the sternwheelers docked at this festival were built by the owners. The Wheeling event is patterned after a number of other festivals that take place each summer up and down the Ohio River.

In addition to the sternwheelers themselves, the festival offers musical entertainment, several dozen food and craft vendors, amusement rides and a fireworks display Saturday night. The festival opens at 11 a.m. today and 11:30 a.m. Saturday.