By Frank Lewis
Every year 18,000 people line the banks of the Ohio River on the Fourth of July to watch the spectacular fireworks display put on by Civic Forum. And that figure does not include people sitting in tall buildings, up on Reservoir Hill, and over in Kentucky. And while last year was an exception, because of the cancellation caused by several feet of standing water, Gene Arms says he is hopeful this year’s event will come off without a hitch.
“Doc Roc and the Remedies will play from 7 to 10 (p.m.) on the soundstage,” Arms said. “And we’ll shoot the fireworks at 10 o’clock (p.m.).”
Arms said the fireworks the Civic Forum had purchased for last year’s show were returned to the bunker in Lancaster because they were never removed from the truck.
“They were locked in the truck and that’s the last thing that goes in after the tubes are set up and everything,” Arms said. “And then the tubes are loaded. But they never got out of the truck because of the water coming up in the place across the river.”
The fireworks are fired off from a large clearing on the Kentucky side of the river directly across from the soundstage in Portsmouth. Arms said Civic Forum spent $5,000, half paid by the River Days committee, getting a space cut out in the bank on the Kentucky side to make room for the launching area.
“We have a nice place to shoot,” Arms said. “It’s a sandy room, about 90 by 120 or 150 with a sandy bottom and it’s directly across from the soundstage. I called Delmer Hicks. He owns that property along the riverbank over there and I asked him about using it, and he said, ‘You do whatever you want to do with that. I’m happy to give back to the community.’ So he donated the use of that.”
Arms said a similar problem that existed on the Kentucky side before they cleared it off, exists on the Ohio side.
“Right now I’m getting ready to approach (Portsmouth) City Council. It’s late for this year, but I’m going to approach them and try to get them to cut those trees up in York Park that are down along the river, because if you’re in York Park, or even in the festival area you can’t see the bridge,” Arms said. “And if you’re up in York Park you can’t see anything down river until you are looking about mid-way up the Carl Perkins Bridge. That is old wild growth that has grown up along the bank there and it’s encroaching the stage from the York Park area.”
Arms said Civic Forum chose to begin firing the fireworks off from the Ohio River bank in Kentucky when it became increasingly difficult to get a barge to use.
“The last time I had a barge down there it cost me $3,200,” Arms said.
Arms said, should the fireworks program be rained out on July 4, they will set them off on July 5.
Frank Lewis can be reached at 740-353-3101, Ext. 252, or on Twitter @FrankLewispdt.