BELPRE - Memories are expected to be made as the 81st Belpre Homecoming Festival kicks off this evening at Civitan Park.
The festival begins at 6:30 p.m. with the opening ceremonies at the main stage. Belpre Mayor Mike Lorentz, Parkersburg Mayor Bob Newell and the Washington County commissioners are expected to say a few words.
The festival will include free admission and entertainment as well as a variety of foods, games and rides.
Photo by Jeff Baughan
Malana Hall, 2011 Miss Teen Belpre, center left, watches Little Miss Belpre Grace Sprout, left, look at her crown while Miss Teen Belpre 2010 Gabbie Gramkow, center right, talks with 2011 Miss Belpre Mercedes Trescott, right, prior to the start Wednesday of the final rehearsal for the Little Miss and Little Mr. Belpre pageant at the Civitan Park gazebo. Sprout will surrender her crown after winning last year's pageant.
''We want to make sure people have a good time when they come back to Belpre or are coming to Belpre for the first time,'' said Kathy Lott-Gramkow, first vice president of the Belpre Area Chamber of Commerce and the Belpre Homecoming chairman. ''We believe we have provided something for everyone to enjoy.''
Lott-Gramkow said many friends and families will be coming back to the area for reunions with someone special to them.
This evening's events include the Belpre Homecoming Youth Olympics, which is a set of challenges for Homecoming participants to do to win prizes. The games are part of the Youth and Family Night, which is in its second year.
Also today, Chase Likens, native of Point Pleasant, will be performing on the main stage at 8:30 p.m. Likens was a Top 24 Finalist on the 2012 season of "American Idol" and has a big local following. Medals for the Youth Olympics will be awarded at the concert.
The headlining act for Friday at 8:30 p.m. will be country recording artist Joel Crouse, who is a songwriter and has opened for Rodney Adkins, Sara Evans, the Goo Goo Dolls, Toby Keith and Darius Rucker. Opening for Crouse at 7:30 p.m. will be Nashville singer/songwriter Brent Cobb, who has written songs for Luke Bryan, David Nail, Kellie Pickler and The Eli Young Band.
The Saturday entertainment will include local acts Jinxed at 8 p.m. with Titus Canbe at 9:30 p.m.
There will be a Cruise-In Friday and a parade will be Saturday morning
The Belpre Mile Run/Walk will begin at 9:40 a.m. Saturday at Howes Grove Park and will finish at Belpre Saving Bank on Washington Boulevard. The race is open to anyone ages 12 and up with seven integrated age categories for prizes.
Participants for Saturday's Homecoming Parade are being sought. The parade will begin at 10 a.m. at Belpre High School, will go up Maple Street and onto Washington Boulevard and will end at Howes Grove Park.
Pageants will run each evening, including the Little Miss Belpre and Little Mister this evening, Jr. Miss Belpre on Friday and Miss Teen Belpre and Miss Belpre on Saturday.
The Youth Country Store will be going on throughout the festival. People can buy tickets to win prizes donated by people and businesses from the community.
The Belpre Youth Chamber of Commerce is organizing the event. The money raised will go for Youth Chamber leadership training and other events the group is organizing to help the community.
''It shows that local youth want to be involved and give something back to the community,'' Lott-Gramkow said.
The homecoming committee has added a fundraiser to the festival events, the Duck Pluck on Saturday.
About 1,500 numbered rubber ducks, on loan from the Parkersburg Homecoming Festival's Rubber Ducky Derby, will be dumped into the city swimming pool with Lorentz set to pluck out the winning ducks, Lott-Gramkow said.
People with the corresponding tickets will win $500 for first place, $250 for second, $100 for third, $75 for fourth and $50 for fifth.
Duck tickets are $5 or five for $20 and will be available at the chamber's booth at the festival. The Duck Pluck is sponsored by Belpre Savings Bank. Proceeds go to support festival events.