Tuesday, October 14, 2003

Time travelers begin trips to riverfront

By Larry Nager
The Cincinnati Enquirer

The first arrivals from the riverboat era are docked aliong the Serpentine Wall at Cincinnati's Public Landing Monday.
(Craig Ruttle photo)
| ZOOM |
Steamboats lined the Cincinnati Riverfront at Yeatman's Cove Monday, as Gabby Schrand captured the scene on her digital camera.

"What's that one?" the 10-year-old from Amberley Village asked her mom, Laurie, pointing at a paddle-wheeler leaving a silver wake in the bright lunch-hour sun. "I want to see the biggest boat."

Most of the 17 boats in Tall Stacks, the world's largest riverboat gathering, were to be in place by today. The tribute to the riverboat's heyday runs Wednesday through Sunday on the Cincinnati and Newport riverfronts.

Even though most of the boats had yet to arrive, perfect fall weather and the Columbus Day holiday brought out dozens of steamboat fans by Monday afternoon. They snapped pictures and watched crews working on the five boats tied at Yeatman's Cove - Colonel (Galveston), Anson Northrup (Minneapolis), Harriet Bishop (St. Paul), Island Queen (Memphis) and Creole Queen (New Orleans).

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"It's such a cool thing to be the Queen City and have all these riverboats here. It's very romantic," said local musician Joani Lacy, who was on the riverfront with her husband, Robin. They perform in the band DeZydeco and will play Tall Stacks on Saturday.

"It's really glorious seeing all the riverboats all in one place," said Nancy Ip of Anderson Township, who came down with some friends for their lunch hour. A Tall Stacks veteran, she thinks this year is shaping up as the best, thanks to improvements in both the festival and the Cincinnati-Northern Kentucky riverfront.

"Things have really changed since the last Tall Stacks (in 1999)," Ip said. "The area is so much more people-friendly, there's so much more to do."

On shore, crews were busy painting the gateways, finishing stages, erecting concession booths and generally sprucing up the riverfront.

"I love Tall Stacks," said Capt. John Halter as he tinkered with a piece of machinery on the deck of the Anson Northrup. He'd helmed the 350-capacity boat on its 91/2-day, 1,360-mile trip from Minneapolis, the longest the boat had ever done under its own power. "This is like the old photos of Cincinnati with all the steamboats lining the riverfront. This is what these boats were meant to do."

E-mail lnager@enquirer.com

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