The Battle of Over-the-Rhine and Covington

These little economic engines chug along on both sides of the river, but who will come out on top?

Illustration by Walter Newman

Ladies and gentlemen, it’s the fight you’ve all been waiting for! Tonight, we’ll decide who is superior, Over-the-Rhine or Covington. It’s a rivalry more than two centuries in the making, so we’re in for a helluva show.

These two communities are on fire! The social hubs of their respective sides of the river, each is fueled by startup incubators and accelerators, awe-inspiring architecture, and cutting-edge restaurants. OTR is riding high on publicity from The New York Times and Forbes, but Covington, scrappy and unpredictable, is a mighty contender.

The fans are jammed into The Arena Formerly Known as U.S. Bank. OTR gets trendier and younger by the minute, but the pioneers are here, too—those who stuck with the neighborhood through the riots and the period of disinvestment. Bockfest folks are in the house, of course, as are some Music Hall patrons and the OTR Rhinos, Ziegler Park’s scrappy swim team.

The Covington side is a bit rowdier, with their Covington Street Hockey League and signature mullets, along with all the bartenders and townies from MainStrasse. Parishioners from Mother of God Church and gargoyles from the Cathedral Basilica of the Assumption made it. Amerasia staff members are handing out free eggrolls. (Drooling.)

But enough with the crowd; let’s introduce the contestants! Both come from a mashed-up background of German, Irish, African-American, American Indian, and Appalachian descent—though Covington recently found out through 23andMe that it’s part Latino.

First in the ring is Covington. What a rebel! Carrying the stolen goat cutout from the city’s Parklet. Doesn’t take itself too seriously, though it’s been classing it up lately with the addition of businesses like the boutique Hotel Covington. Wearing a nicotine patch. Nice work! Must be hard given its history with tobacco factories.

Here comes Over-the-Rhine! Look at that bling! Ten years ago, OTR couldn’t have afforded it. There are some big sponsors in its corner: 3CDC, Kroger, Procter & Gamble, Fifth Third Bank, and Tucker’s Restaurant, which fed OTR when money was tight. What a costume! Fiona Cincy Shirt and lederhosen, carrying a paint brush, for all the murals. Wonder what’s in that Findlay Market bag?

And it’s go time! The ref blows the whistle. OTR lunges in. Smaller than Covington, which is an actual city with 19 neighborhoods and 27 times the land size. But OTR is agile, stomping on Covington’s foot and putting it in a headlock.

The crowd chants “Scovington, Scovington!” an oldie-but-goodie insult from back in the day. Covington doesn’t like it, shaking up a Braxton Vive and spraying it into OTR’s eyes before landing a backhanded chop. OTR is on its knees, and Covington has one arm twisted behind OTR’s back. But wait, OTR is reaching into the Findlay bag with its free hand and pulls out…a turkey leg from Luken’s! Swinging the fowl like a club, OTR uppercuts Covington in the chin.

OTR is barreling toward Covington now, but Covington dives away and regains a fighting stance. “You’re displacing people,” Covington growls. A low blow. “You’re just jealous of our population density,” OTR shoots back.

A baby cries in the audience, grabbing the fighters’ attention. The woman sitting next to the child holds a sign that says, “This is a space for everybody.” She’s from Peaslee Neighborhood Center in OTR. Covington and OTR look at the sign and then at one another. They agree that—no matter your race, sexual preference, or socioeconomic status—you should have a home in their neighborhoods if you want it.

“I like being Covington,” Covington says. “It’s not for everyone, but it’s for me.” “Me, too,” says OTR, “I’m not perfect, but what is?” “Truce?” they say in unison and shake.

“Let’s use our strength for good and challenge global warming and gerrymandering,” says OTR. “But first I want a 3-way.” “How about goetta?” replies Covington. They agree to disagree and head home, high-fived out of the stadium by a stunned, and strangely satisfied, crowd.

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