Roughly 40 miles up the Ohio River from Smale Park sits a quaint, quiet, and picturesque river town with a decades-old tradition worth the hour-long car ride. The Augusta Riverfest Regatta celebrates the city’s rich cultural history with a festival held alongside Riverside Drive each summer. (The 2019 dates are July 19–21.)
The regatta got its start in 1978, the year after shooting for a television miniseries based on James Michener’s Centennial wrapped in the area. A ferry used in production was conveniently left in Augusta, and was later used as a floating stage for the first annual regatta (emceed by none other than Nick Clooney). That first event focused largely on art and sternwheel races. The following year added a hot air balloon race to the mix, but both races were phased out over time.
Today, the regatta features live music, a beer garden, a tractor show, food vendors, a beauty pageant, a car show, and old-timey sternwheelers passing (but not racing) by. More important, the occasion makes for the perfect excuse to get lost in the charm of the tree-lined river town, practically guaranteeing a great weekend of relaxation for just about anyone. “Augusta has hospitality from the heart,” says Janet Hunt, Augusta tourism director. “No one is a stranger here for long.”