WILL PINKSTON | The Sun
Tethered to the shoreline, the American Queen dropped its gangway at the Port of Paducah Sunday for its first visit in several years. The steamboat can accommodate upwards of 436 guests durings its voyages through America's inland waterways.
The first steamboat travel on the Ohio and Mississippi rivers since 2008 was a trial run for the local tourism industry.
“After four hours, I’m all talked out,” said Fowler Black, sales director of the Paducah Convention and Visitors Bureau.
That’s how many hours Black narrated bus tours Sunday through downtown, Lower Town and as far west as the Fisher Mansion on Ninth Street. The tour attendees were some of the 250 passengers who arrived in town via the American Queen riverboat. As the 418-foot-long, six-level vessel sat anchored at the riverfront Sunday, business owners and tourism executives tried to capitalize on the visitors and weekend buzz.
“Today was sort of a trial run since it’s a new company,” Black said. The American Queen was recently acquired and refurbished by the Great American Steamboat Company in Memphis, Tenn.
With new company ownership came new methods of tours and deals for travelers for free admission to certain Paducah sites. A large tour bus decked from end-to-end in detailed graphics resembling the American Queen followed the boat to Paducah, as it does at every stop, and shuttled visitors on city-wide tours.
“I think Paducah is one of those unexpected surprises for people,” Black said. “They don’t really have much of an expectation coming in, and then they see historic downtown.”
Bridge work on track
The 322-foot replacement span for Eggner’s Ferry Bridge made the 30-mile trip from Eddyville to Aurora on Monday, traveling Lake Barkley and Kentucky Lake. The bridge has been ordered a priority of the transportation department to be repaired by May 27 in time for Memorial Day tourism to the lakes area. The original bridge span was destroyed Jan. 26 by contact with the cargo vessel MV Delta Mariner.
Cookie’s king of the brisket
After winning the grand champion title at September’s Barbecue on the River, Cookie’s Grill team won the inaugural Briskets on Broadway event. Fourteen teams competed to cook one of the toughest cuts of meat — brisket. Since brisket requires such lengthy cooking times, Barbecue on the River organizers opted not to include the cooking competition in the fall, but rather create a new event in May, which is National Barbecue Month.