Friday, June 21, 2019

Only in Cleveland

What would you do if a river that caught fire made your hometown the butt of jokes, even 50 years after it last happened? Clevelanders are getting the last laugh.

Not only do we have a beer and a festival (among other things) named after the burning river, we are dedicating a long weekend to the 50th anniversary of the infamous fire.

This is the 1952 Cuyahoga River fire.
The 1969 fire on the Cuyahoga River was no laughing matter. Nor were the fires that preceded it. Industries and individuals treated the river as a dumping ground for years before society became more environmentally conscious. For whatever reason, the 1969 fire – which wasn’t even as bad as some of the others — got national attention. Thus the jokes.

On the upside, that fire was one of the factors that led to the creation of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in 1970 and passage of the Clean Water Act in 1972.

Tomorrow marks the 50th anniversary of the last fire on the Cuyahoga. Activities commemorating it began Wednesday, but there are plenty of others happening through Sunday, including the aforementioned Burning River Fest today and tomorrow on Whiskey Island. Some will have you learning about the river, some will have you looking at art inspired by it and some will get you on the river. And many of the activities are free.

Fifty years ago, the river was too polluted to enjoy. Earlier this year, the Ohio EPA declared it safe to eat fish from it. So check out the list of anniversary events and raise a Burning River Pale Ale to the enduring Cuyahoga.

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