Covington's bicentennial celebration hits peak during summer

When it comes to developing the Ohio Riverfront, it's not exactly a competition with downtown Cincinnati — but the City of Covington’s bicentennial celebration currently offers ample reason to turn our collective attention to the Northern Kentucky side.
COV200, the all-volunteer committee made up of residents, business leaders and elected officials, formed in early 2014 to begin organizing yearlong festivities that would commemorate Covington’s storied past while unveiling short- and long-term plans. The group’s three-fold mission: envision, evolve, celebrate.
“This is an opportunity to showcase all things Covington,” says COV200 Chair Norm Desmarais. “It’s a chance to get people in all of our 19 neighborhoods involved and engaged and become the envy of other communities.”
Ongoing initiatives have been rolling out since February, with local organizations like Children Inc., Baker Hunt Art & Cultural Center and Keep Covington Beautiful partnering to target specific environmental and educational needs. Impact Covington Days engage citizens in promoting social services, public art and beautification.
Similarly, a series of education projects invite students to participate in Covington-themed theatrical performances, neighborhood tours, photo-essay contests and other exercises that combine learning with civic involvement. (See COV200’s digital magazine for a full list of partners and events.)
Bicentennial events reach their pinnacle over the summer, kicking off with a special edition of the annual 4th of July Parade followed by a six-day Summer Celebration festival presented by BB&T (formerly the Bank of Kentucky).
Festivities take place July 9-14 along RiverCenter Boulevard and Covington Landing, with highlights that include:

50-foot Ferris wheel and 125-foot slide with free rides for kids.

• Free games and activities in the Duke Energy Kids’ Activity Tent.

Life Below the Waterline, a traveling 2,200-gallon freshwater aquarium.

• Daily performances by Ludlow-based arts program Circus Mojo.

Live local music from The Turkeys, Rusty Griswolds, Ricky Nye and 20-plus other musical acts.

Food and drink from The Gruff, Red Sesame Food Truck, Kona Ice, Streetpops and Mick Noll’s Covington Haus.
RoeblingFest returns July 11 to celebrate the John A. Roebling Bridge, its history and the people it connects. There will be tours of the bridge throughout the day and lots of historical displays, including a history tent open 11 a.m.-7 p.m. Take a chance at a raffle to win a “Trip to the Top.” 

Other Covington events include Licking River Historic District home tours, a family-friendly “Bike-Centennial” ride and “Bark-centennial” dog parade and baseball-themed activities to coincide with the MLB All-Star Game at Great American Ball Park on July 14.

Growing fast, with room for more
In the very early days, Covington served as little more than an overflow port for Cincinnati’s river traffic, but a huge wave of German immigrants changed all that in the 1830s. The town was quickly incorporated and began to annex adjacent neighborhoods like Wallace Woods and Botany Hills. Rapid growth ensued and has been a guiding light of Covington’s identity ever since.
Today Covington is home to neighborhoods that range in size and cultural significance from largely residential Latonia/Roselawn to a thriving downtown core that’s welcomed a wide range of new businesses in recent years — art galleries, distinctive culinary attractions, biotechnology firms and a wedding industry cluster to name just a few. A heavy German influence remains, particularly in sections of MainStrasse and Old Town/Mutter Gottes.
Despite whirlwind expansion, there’s still plenty of space to plant roots in Covington, according to COV200 Vice Chair Amanda Greenwell.
“We’re the biggest city in Northern Kentucky, but there’s still so much potential to start something new,” she says. “It’s easy to break into the Covington scene, find out who the key players are and let people know what you’re about.”

Planning for the next 200 years
A remarkable spirit of collaboration sets Covington apart from other cities of its size in the region and beyond. In addition to an increasing number of partnerships at the corporate level, community groups like the Covington Neighborhood Collaborative (CNC) and the Center for Great Neighborhoods (CGN) are committed to engendering pride and elevating the quality of life for residents of Covington’s diverse districts.
Teamwork is perhaps even more apparent in Covington’s grassroots sector with informal groups like Awesome Collective, whose stated mission — “to celebrate the awesomeness of the COV” — is exemplified in an increasingly visible #lovethecov social media hashtag. Such groups celebrate the city’s more offbeat characteristics; a recent cause for excitement was the passage of a plan to introduce roaming goats to manage weeds in Goebel Park.
Elsewhere, members of Covington’s thriving artistic scene tell residents’ stories through Humans of Covington, a street-interview project modeled after the original New York series.
“We’re a very scrappy and close-knit town,” Greenwell says of Covington’s inclusiveness. “There’s a small-town feel that makes it very open and accepting. If you have new ideas to contribute and if you’re artistic, quirky or weird, Covington will welcome you with open arms.”
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