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Riverfest returns Sunday with concern from local leaders, boating restrictions

'My suggestion would be to watch it on TV'
Riverfest, WEBN fireworks bring thousands to banks of Ohio River on Labor Day weekend
Posted at 4:49 PM, Sep 01, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-01 20:03:13-04

COVINGTON, Ky. — Come Sunday, The Banks is expected to be packed for Riverfest, the traditional end-of-summer festival.

While some are thrilled Riverfest is back again, others worry the large crowds could cause superspreader events on both sides of the river.

2020 was a year without Riverfest.

"Last year was a zero,” said Alan Bernstein, owner of BB Riverboats.

He said his team is excited to be back out, cruising people alongside the fireworks.

"We're looking forward to it,” Bernstein said. “When you miss it, it's a little bit easier to come back and enjoy it."

Just down the river, Covington Mayor Joe Meyer is cautiously excited.

"We are excited about the event, it's always a wonderful thing, but this year it's definitely a two-edge sword,” Meyer said.

Meyer is concerned the massive festival, which brings people out along the river banks of Cincinnati, Newport, Bellevue and Kentucky, could become a superspreader event.

"We'll have virtually our entire police department there, and if we've got 10 or 15 or 20 of our police officers who are exposed to COVID, that is a huge impact to our ability to keep the residents safe,” Meyer said.

He's asking people to use their best judgment.

"We have to encourage people to think about what they're doing and take steps to protect themselves,” Meyer said. “My suggestion would be to watch it on TV."

It's a similar message from Hamilton County Health Commissioner Greg Kesterman.

For those vaccinated, he suggests sticking with your group during the festival, socially-distanced if possible.

For those unvaccinated, he’s suggesting they reconsider attending the festival altogether.

"If you've chosen not to get vaccinated and you're thinking about going to an event like this, you might want to think twice,” Kesterman said. “Particularly if you have some underlying health condition."

Bernstein said riverboats are sold out for Sunday.

"We really have felt this year that people are even more excited about being out simply because last year was the quarantine year and everyone was locked up," Bernstein said.

The U.S. Coast Guard announced Wednesday boats will not be allowedto tie up in the river during Riverfest because of high water.

Unlike leisure boats, BB Riverboats said they are still permitted to dock in certain areas of the river.