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American Queen to stop in Huntington today

Staff report

The Herald-Dispatch

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. — The Cabell-Huntington Convention and Visitors Bureau is putting its final plans in place as Huntington prepares to welcome The American Queen, and its 374 expected passengers, to Huntington today.

The American Queen steamboat will stop at Harris Riverfront Park in Huntington today. Almost 400 passengers are expected to disembark for an afternoon of touring.
(File photo by Sholten Singer)

The riverboat, which last visited Huntington in 2014, is scheduled to arrive at noon Wednesday, allowing its passengers to spend the afternoon in the Tri-State.

“We had such a good experience when the American Queen visited us in 2014 that we’ve been working with them since that time to schedule a return,” Tyson Compton, president of the CVB, said. “So we are very excited to welcome them.”

Compton said his office had been planning the event with a representative from Shore Excursions of America, the group that plans the outings in each city where the boat stops. “They visited us almost a year ago to review the city and our attractions here so that they could plan tours for th1e passengers,” Compton said.

The Queen has five motorcoaches that travel with the boat, allowing for “hop-on, hop-off” touring of stops. Once the passengers disembark, they can then visit a variety of local attractions and venues, including Pullman Square and the downtown shops, Touma Medical Museum, Central City 14th Street Antique District, the Railroad Museum, the Rose Garden at Ritter Park, the Special Collections Library at Marshall University and the Heritage Station Shops and CVB. Passengers also can opt to join the Premium Tour which takes them to Heritage Farm and Huntington Museum of Art.

Two special guests will be on board the Queen as well. “John Waggoner, chairman of the American Queen Steamboat Company, and his wife, Claudette, will be sailing on the boat next week,” Ruth Richebacher, senior director of product development with Shore Excursions, said in a news release.

The CVB has worked to create a special welcome for the riverboat and its passengers, with Huntington Mayor Steve Williams on hand to greet Waggoner and the riverboat captain and present them with a piece of Blenko Glass. The Stony Point String Band will be on hand to play riverboat music as passengers disembark and begin exploring the city.

Compton said artists with the Red Caboose will be at Pullman Square to welcome the visitors and offer a sampling of artisan crafts and local literature.

“We’ve also been working closely with Greater Huntington Park and Recreation District to ensure a smooth arrival, docking and refreshing of the boat,” Compton said.

To make the tours more personal, a local ambassador will be on board each motorcoach and stationed at each attraction.

“This will allow us to interact with these folks on a more personal level, as well as give us the opportunity to share the story of Huntington,” Compton said. Volunteer ambassadors include Amy Ward, Sheila Redling, Bill Cornwell, Janina Michael, Jennifer Wheeler, Tom Bell, Mary Plyde Bell and A.J. Stovitz. Some of the attractions will have volunteer support as well.

Although local folks cannot board the boat, they still have a chance to go to Harris Riverfront Park to see the boat said Huntington river historian Jerry Sutphin, who is traveling on this trip and two other American Queen trips this year, giving narrative talks about the sights and history along the rivers as a guest “riverlorian.”

“It is the world’s largest passenger carrying sternwheel steam boat, and it is a legitimate steam boat,” Sutphin said of The American Queen. “This is a great opportunity to see this magnificent steamboat.”

More info

For those wanting an actual ride on the river, BB Riverboats’ Belle of Cincinnati will have its annual summertime Ohio River trip July 20-27. Those stops include: July 20-21 in Portsmouth, Ohio; July 22, Ashland; July 23, Huntington; and July 26-27, Maysville, Kentucky. Go online at http://bbriverboats.com/cruises/belle-of-cincinnati-summer-cruise-tour for more info on the July cruises that include sightseeing, lunch, brunch and dinner cruises. Call 800-261-8586 to book a cruise and to make a group reservation for 15 or more.

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