PIQUA — With the annual river and beer fest Down A River Down A Beer (DARDAB) returning to the riverfront at Lock 9 on Aug. 4, so will the flaming River Fire Rings created by the French Oil Mill Machinery Company.
Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Dan French of French Oil Mill Machinery Co. recalled the inspiration for the flaming River Fire Rings as stemming from the “i Love Piqua” workshop series’ seminar with Peter Kageyama, the author of the book “For the Love of Cities,” in June 2015.
Kageyama talked about Providence, Rhode Island having a series of fire rings on the river that run through the city. Providence is home to WaterFire Providence, which is a non-profit arts organization that uses fire displays and over 80 bonfires at their events to promote Providence and foster community engagement.
“I thought that was cool,” French said.
After exploring options of working with WaterFire and finding it was not a feasible option to have a WaterFire installation in Piqua, French and a handful of employees at French Oil Mill Machinery Co. took it upon themselves to make Piqua’s flaming River Fire Rings a reality.
“We devised our own version of the River Fire Rings,” French said.
Machinists Daniel Flaute and Joe Davis, Factory Floor Leader and Head of Maintenance Cy Pleiman, Machinist and Purchasing Agent Tom Wion, and maintenance employee Josh Drees helped out the project creating their own custom River Fire Rings.
“We came up with a way to float them,” Pleiman said.
While the WaterFire installations in Providence are permanent sculptures in the rivers, the River Fire Rings from French Oil Mill Machinery Co. float on foam pads and stay in place with 20-pound steel anchors.
The first River Fire Ring took about a week to make, Davis said, and then they completed four more in the following week.
Pleiman explained there are three outstretched layers to the River Fire Rings that allow the rings to float and be stable, encompassing 11 feet. The fire baskets on top of the River Fire Rings are three feet wide. Flaute said, at one point, the outstretched layers had hinges on them, but they were not stable enough that way.
“They are pretty unique,” Wion said.
Creating the River Fire Rings also gave them a break in their routine. Flaute said they’ve never built anything like that before.
“They were fun to build,” Flaute said.
The work continues each year as they donate their time and use their own trailers and trucks to transport and install the flaming River Fire Rings for the annual DARDAB event, later taking them down and transporting them back to storage after the event is over.
“These guys do it on their own time,” French said.
“We’ll be getting them out real soon,” Wion said.
DARDAB will be held on the Great Miami River from 6-10 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 4, at Lock 9 Riverfront Park in downtown Piqua.
Proceeds support local efforts to ensure safe and healthy waterways, water quality, and to recognize the GreatMiami River as a recreational asset to the community. Advance tickets can be purchased online at MainstreetPiqua for $30. Admission will be $35 at the gate and designated drivers pay $5.
Complete information and retail ticket locations can be found on the Down A River Down A Beer Facebookpage or by contacting Mainstreet Piqua at 773-9355.
Reach Sam Wildow at firstname.lastname@example.org