PIQUA — A sunny and warm August day did not disappoint for attendees at the Down a River, Down a Beer event this weekend.
Organized by Jim Burkhardt, this was the third year for the event. For Burkhardt, the reason behind uniting the river with a beer-tasting event is simple: it’s fun.
“We’ve done other beer events, and we’ve just really had a lot of fun. We’ve been to a lot of other beer events, but there’s never really been anything like this in Piqua, and we thought we could do this here in town and raise some funds for the River Stewards Program,” Burkhardt said. “We’re just trying to have some fun and make Piqua a better place to live, work, and play.”
Held at Lock 9 Park, there were 99 kinds of beer available – from lagers, pilsners and stouts to porters, belgians, and more – in addition to a tasting glass that attendees got to keep. Representatives from several local breweries were also there to pass out their own concoctions, including Dayton Beer Company, Warped Wing, Toxic Brew Company, Hairless Hare, Yellow Springs Brewery, and Moeller Brew Barn.
Rolling on the river
“They’re rolling down the river that’s for sure,” Tim Wirth of 98.1 WPTW, emcee of the event, said while narrating a canoe race.
In addition to the beer tasting, Down the River, Down a Beer included river activities like float time, water safety, and canoe/kayak tips, as well as corporate and individual races.
“That’s right, after this paddling, think of how good the beer is going to taste,” Wirth said while narrating another race.
“I had a blast,” Robbie Dickerson said after he and his canoeing-partner Tim Butler scored a time of 2 minutes and 45 seconds during their race. Dickerson and Butler were out on the water representing Koverman Staley Dickerson Insurance Agency during the corporate canoe races.
“I hope I can do it again next year,” Dickerson said.
Dickerson has canoed a few times before, but this was Butler’s first time. Both agreed that canoeing on the river was a little tougher than they thought it would be.
“I’m pretty tired after that run,” Butler said. “You got to stay on it … We did a good turn. We skidded right around. That was great.”
“It’s going really good this year,” Wirth said after that race, adding that the corporate challenges appeared to be the highlight of this year’s water events. “I’m having a great time out here.”
Wirth said that the greatest thing about the Down a River, Down a Beer event was the community.
“It’s neighbors hanging out with neighbors,” Wirth said. “Even our mayor got in a canoe.”
The river events were made possible thanks to help from Protecting Our Water-Ways (POWW), which organized and ran those events. Jeff Lange, founder and executive director of POWW, explained how proceeds from the event will go back into the community and benefit the river.
“Part of the proceeds help POWW, but the majority of it goes to the Edison State Community College River Stewards Program,” Lange said. “The River Stewards Program is young men and women out there getting their degrees, if they sign up for the river stewards program, will take specialized courses in river ecology, river habitat, management, economic development along the riverfront which is recreational opportunities, health and well-being opportunities. So that in the hopes when they graduate with their regular degree, then they will be able to maybe come back to the Miami Valley to help out our river here, or if they go to another city in the United States, they can start their own advocacy group or organization and help out their own river where they live.”
Lange also thanked the volunteers and sponsors of POWW and the Great Miami River Clean-Up for picking up trash and debris from the river each year to keep it clean so that they are able to hold events like Down a River, Down a Beer.
In addition, the event featured a silent auction of beer-related memorabilia including Down The River, Down a Beer mugs crafted by local potter Bob Heckman. Jimmy Felts entertained the crowd with live guitar music, and WPTW also provided live music, with Wirth emceeing the entire event.
Dignitaries celebrate national water trail designation
A special feature of this year’s event was a ceremony in honor of the Great Miami Watershed Water Trail being named a national water trail system by the Secretary of the Interior, a designation that could lead to more riverfront investment. The water trail includes the Great Miami, Stillwater, and Mad rivers and is the only national water trail in Ohio.
“This is a wonderful day here in Piqua. This is a wonderful day for the Great Miami River. This is a wonderful day for our region,” Piqua Mayor Kazy Hinds said. “This is a celebration of place.”
Hinds also called out Troy Mayor Michael Beamish, who was attending the event and the proclamation ceremony, thanking him for his support.
“He and I both know that it is not just Piqua and Troy, it is the greater Miami region, and whatever benefits each one of us, benefits the other,” Hinds.
Representatives from the Miami Conservancy District, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, and the National Park Service of the U.S. Department of the Interior also came out to say a few words in celebration of this new designation.
“We work to make communities attractive and inviting and safe,” Janet Bly of the Miami Conservancy District said. “We also work to the make the Great Miami River something that we need not fear, but something that we can enjoy – a place to play on the water and alongside the water.”
The Great Miami River is also a state-designated water trail, receiving that designation last year.
“I think that everyone will see that the benefits are going to come along with a boost in the economy, more people here involved and recreating on the river, and getting involved to protect it and keep it as the great resource that it is,” Douglas Leed of the Ohio Department of Natural Resources said.
The dignitaries finished off by commemorating the river’s newest designation as a national water trail.
“The secretary of the Department of the Interior selected six area waterways including the Great Miami River as national water trails,” Bly said. “This is an extremely prestigious honor – it was a very selective process – and we are so very, very proud.”
“On behalf of the Interior Secretary Sally Jewell and National Park Service Director Jonathan B. Jarvis, I want to extend our congratulations to the Miami Conservancy District and the communities here, in particularly on this stretch Piqua and Troy, on their designation of a national water trail,” Superintendent Dean Alexander of the National Park Service of the U.S. Department of the Interior said. “The Great Miami River is the first national water trail in the state of Ohio.”
Burkhardt also took a moment to recognize the part of the river that extends through the Miami Valley from Sidney to Hamilton.
“Ninety-nine miles of river, 99 beers – coincidence? I think not,” Burkhardt said.
Reach Sam Wildow at (937) 451-3336. Belinda M. Paschal contributed to this story.