Cincinnati Bockfest

By Dudley Wooten - PDT Columnist



“Vas you ever in Zinzinnati?” If you’ve spent much time there you’re aware it’s about the “Seven Hills” of Cincinnati. Where there’s hills, there will be valleys. One such place of lower elevation in Cincinnati is “Over the Rhine.”

In 1816, America had 100 miles of canals. In 1819, the Erie Canal was a monumental break though in transportation, connecting inland New York and Lake Erie with the Hudson River. This was also a time for roads and canals to enhance travel “Out West” to Cincinnati. Footpaths went to wagon trails and then to turnpikes. Canals began to penetrate Ohio, including the Ohio – Erie Canal (Cleveland – Portsmouth – 1832) and the Miami-Ohio Canal (Toledo – Cincinnati – 1832) Of course, The National Road went through Wheeling, Columbus, and Dayton while Zane’s Trace went a more southerly route, passing through Zanesville, Newark, Lancaster, Chillicothe, and Aberdeen.

The whole idea here is The Western Expansion. Ohio is a state in 1803 and population, farming and commerce depended on expanding the few roads and extensive waterways of the day. They just had to connect the dots. Portsmouth and Cincinnati are on the same schedule and it’s all about being on The Ohio River and being a canal terminus as well.

Today’s story is about the proud heritage of Cincinnati. As the Miami – Ohio Canal brings a huge economic boost to Cincinnati, it also enhances its vast German population and that means beer. Cincinnati becomes the “Queen City” or “Queen of the West.” She also becomes “Porkopolis” with the numerous slaughter houses and packing houses there. This is, of course, happening with Ohio becoming the prime pork producer in the nation, the river and the canal.

So what’s an “Over – the – Rhine?” The Miami-Ohio Canal ran through Cincinnati in what is now the Vine Street area. This waterway was lined with trees, landscaping, merchants, and ramps or bridges for getting goods to and from canal boats. Those from Germany saw this beautiful waterway and its teeming activity as being reminiscent of their beloved Rhine River. The moniker “Over-the-Rhine” started then and has stuck through today.

Bockfest is a celebration of the German Bock beer history in Cincinnati and where would be more appropriate than “Over-the-Rhine?” This kicks off the Bock Beer Celebration and it will close with “Octoberfest.” This is all through the efforts of the local “Brewery District Community Urban Redevelopment Corporation and its purpose is to renovate local pride in Cincinnati’s Over-the-Rhine district and Bock Beer. It’s a 3-day event including a race, beer hall, smuggler tunnels (prohibition), a Miss Bockfest Pageant, a 150 year old saloon and everything in between. They rope it off and the beer flows.

My son, Benji, lives in Cincinnati and he had a booth at Arnold’s Bar and Grill selling some of his wood-working Bockfest memorabilia. We had a great time together, along with several of his friends Sonny and Kenny.

Arnold’s is a bar and grill at 208 and 210 E. Eighth Street in Cincinnati. These buildings and its courtyard were a barber shop, feed store, livery stable, and carriage house. In 1861 (Civil War), Simon Arnold started a saloon here. For three generations it was in the family with the owner living on the third floor. Arnold’s remains today as a fine bar and grill with a lot of history. It has the huge oak bar, mirrors, brass foot rail, world’s smallest men’s room and the bathtub on the second floor restaurant. This tub was alleged to have been where the prohibition “bathtub gin” was made.

At Arnold’s Bar and Grill, it’s easy to eat, drink and travel back in time. The 19th and 20th Century décor and atmosphere is greatly enhanced with all the 50 -150 year old political and sport memorabilia. There’s everything there from steamboat, trolley, canal, beer, and Civil War history to anything you may need to know about bare-knuckle boxing, horse racing, Redlegs, Royals, and Bengals posters on the walls.

Between the beer and all the wall readings it was like, “Where did this day go?” If you go to Bockfest, don’t overdress. Buckle shoes, Alpine fedora hat, and matching Alpine Leprechaun shorts will do just fine. It would help to know “Edelweiss.” You will fit right in.


By Dudley Wooten

PDT Columnist

Dudley Wooten is the owner/operator of Wooten’s Landscaping and Nursery and can be contacted at 740-820-8210.

Dudley Wooten is the owner/operator of Wooten’s Landscaping and Nursery and can be contacted at 740-820-8210.