Rollin' on the River with Paddlefest
By Dianne Gebhardt-French

It's an incredible sight. Kayaks, canoes, rafts and more than 1,800 paddlers. The Ohio River closes to barge traffic and a stunning symphony of color maneuvers downriver from Coney Island to the Public Landing on a Saturday morning every June.

This year the 9th Annual Ohio River Way Paddlefest spans the shoreline June 24, 25 and 26.

Almost anything water-worthy and motor-free can be registered, says organizer Brewster Rhoads. "If you can paddle it or pedal it, you can bring it on the river." The expected stream of bright yellow and red kayaks is always dotted with the unusual. Last year it included a decked-out pedal boat captained by a pirate, a four-man cardboard boat which proved seaworthy for the 8.2-mile trip, and a 14-person pink canoe promoting breast cancer screening and research.

"Paddlefest is about the unique experience of paddling the largest river in America," Rhoads says. "It provides the opportunity for a personal, intimate experience with the mighty Ohio."

The string of events is replete with themes of environmental stewardship, water safety for children, festival music and eating fun. There's also just plain showing off. On Friday, Coney Island's signature gigantic pool hosts a kayak rodeo. Last year's top kayaker flipped 10 consecutive rolls to the cheers of the crowd.

Paddlefest begins Thursday with the Kids Outdoor Adventure Expo. It's free and open to the public from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m. Friday events include canoe and kayak lessons, a fishing tournament, boat shows and gear swaps, against the backdrop of the annual Ohio River Music Festival bands.

On Saturday, paddlers launch between 8:30 and 9 a.m. from Coney Island for the two-hour-plus trip to the Public Landing, where they land at the Gold Star Finish Line Festival, featuring Lagniappe, a Cajun band, awards for racers, more food and a shuttle back to Coney.

For details, visit http://www.ohioriverway.org/paddlefest.


Blue Ash Firm's T-shirt "Muy Buen' with Ochocinco
By Dianne Gehbardt-French

New Standard, a fashion T-shirt line created by Blue Ash apparel design company Ripple Junction, has a big fan "” Chad Ochocinco. The Cincinnati Bengals All-Pro has chosen the company's art-designed T-shirt line as his own, wearing it on Dancing With The Stars and promoting it on his web site. "Ever since I wore New Standard during rehearsals for Dancing With The Stars, I have been a big fan of the shirts," he says.

The design is affectionately referred to as Chad's "tiger shirt," and provides him a fashionable edge for his Bengal identity as he competes against fellow celebrities.

New Standard shirts were also worn by this season's American Idol contestants and used in the Top 12 photo shoot. With more than 20 designs, New Standard combines contemporary art with fashion, and the artist is paid a royalty for every shirt. The company's motto: "Buy A Shirt, Support The Artist."

New Standard designs can be purchased at the company's online store (http://www.newstandardstore.com) or through Chad Ochocincoâ"¢'s web site (http://www.ochocinco.com).

For 18 years, Ripple Junction has designed licensed apparel for its wide range of wholesale customers. This is the company's first venture into the direct-to-consumer market.


Hands-on Higher Education
By Gretchen Keen
 
Hands-on Higher Education

Behind classroom doors, students learn to install solar panels, drive semi trucks, nurse patients and assemble parts for jet engines.

These aren't the run-of-the-mill college courses, but Cincinnati State's Workforce Development Center isn't a typical institution. Nonetheless, the WDC will train between 6,000 and 7,000 people in the Tristate this year to prepare for an economic paradigm shift.

The WDC creates custom programs to train businesses' employees, and is also a sought-after destination for displaced workers seeking employment in up-and-coming industries.

"We really do try to focus on emerging industries and helping people to re-engineer, recalibrate what their skill sets are and get them back into the workforce," says WDC Executive Director Dennis Ulrich.

The downturn has actually skyrocketed some fields to the forefront, with green technology, home weatherization and energy auditing being very popular for individuals and businesses alike. The center pairs with the Building Performance Institute (BPI) to teach students how to perform home energy audits, while other programs show how to install and maintain solar panel systems.

In the halls of the WDC, students are likely to brush shoulders with Ivy League-educated General Electric jet engineers, who come to get a practical backing to their academic experience. The engineers don work boots and goggles to get acquainted with the machinery that creates their designs. An off-site GE program called JETS also has first-year GE engineers tear down and reconstruct jet engines for hands-on training.

"It allows them to see design flaws and maybe other ways of doing maintenance on those jet engines," Ulrich explains. "We've put about a thousand GE engineers through the JETS program."

The WDC also keeps its ear to the door of local and national business trends, making sure to keep programming relevant. The organization tailors its training to whatever clients need "” but, in an ailing economy, not all companies seek training as the antidote to their pains.

"Unfortunately, in turbulent economies the first thing that usually goes is training and development, which is a big mistake," Ulrich says. "A lot of organizations find that it's an easy thing to cut, but from what I see, the world-class organizations take that downtime to re-invest in their people and get them skilled-up and trained, so when the economy does turn, these people are ready to go."