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  1. #1

    Default The (not so) Great Steamboat Race

    Courier-Journal Search
    I just saw this in today's Courier-Journal. Steam vs diesel isn't exactly what it's all about. I believe those organizing the Derby Festival have totally missed the point as did the organizers of Tall Stacks 2006. At least at that time we still had our Queens on the rivers. I suppose this time it's due to the fact that there is no other genuine steam paddlewheeler to race the Belle of Louisville against since all the Queens have been retired from service on the river.

    I hope this isn't a portent of the future of steamboating in general!

  2. #2
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    Another misleading statement by the press:

    "Add to that, the Delta Queen, a long-time race competitor, has been docked indefinitely in Chattanooga -- soon to be transformed into a floating hotel because it doesn't comply with federal fire-safety standards."

  3. #3

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    The original link I posted doesn't connect directly to the article. Hopefully this link will.
    Derby Festival spices up steamboat race | courier-journal | The Courier-Journal

    The main point is that the Belle of Louisville will not be racing the Delta Queen this year, due to obvious circumstances. Instead it will be competing against a diesel powered boat! If this trend continues, the Great Steamboat Race will never be the same-and they talk about spicing it up!

  4. #4
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    As a purist of a sort, I have objected to the title "Great Steamboat Race" since the Derby Festival Committee took over the event. They have decided who will win for at least 35 years, maybe longer. The public knows this and stays away by the thousands. The name should be changed to anything other than a race. Call it a parade or a charade, but not a race. Call it an expensive drinking bout (which it is), but not a race. Call it The Meet Your Mayor Trip, but don't pretend it is a race. Let the Belle of Louisville race Six Mile Island, but at least be honest about it.

  5. #5
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    Once a long, long time ago when, after one of my first steamboat races in Louisville I was whining to Betty Blake about how the Belle cheated, she calmed me down in two ways: 1.) she ordered us each a mint julep, 2.) told me quietly that if we hadn't let the Belle win, we might not be invited back next year. That's when I knew the truth about this whole "race" thing, and got an insight into her PR savvy. Good ol' Capt. Betty!

  6. #6
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    Alan, The new S & D Reflector was waiting for me today when I got home. My suggestion; pour a Makers Mark over cracked ice, sit in your favorite chair, fire up the record player, put on a Whistle Blow record, relax and read the the REFLECTOR.

    Tomorrow finish the Reflector, break out the Alp Horn and start tuning up for the concert after your presentation at the Howard Museum this coming July! Your public is waiting!

    All the above to keep you from getting your shorts too bunched up over the "Great Steamboat Race Caper"

  7. #7
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    Jazzou: Some 35+ years ago, Capt. Charley Brasher, who always treated me like a son, gave me a similar version of why the boats "took turns" at winning the "race" when, as a youngster, I took it much too seriously and became very distraught over the DQ running away from the BELLE like a racehorse, leaving us floundering in her wheel wash. Ever after Capt. Charley's fatherly talk, I've always maintained that the event is NOT really a contest, but truly a CELEBRATION showcasing two grand old steamboats!
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  8. #8
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    Default Steamboat Race Reality

    I understand Alanís frustration with the Kentucky Derby Great Steamboat Race. I was fortunate enough to live the life and work the DQ in the late 1970ís. I always followed the event even before my days on the boat. Since I was on board the boat for the race I got to feel the excitement throughout the race, start to finish. That certainly makes a difference. I was not privy to inside information about the legitimacy of the race even though there was plenty of talk that the race was fixed. It seemed pretty obvious some races that it was fixed. Frankly, I chose not to believe the truth. Why? A steamboat ride was fantasy in the first place. People rode to escape back to a long gone time. To a style of luxury that perhaps never really existed the way it was being presented in modern times. So I drank the Juleps, cheered the boats, counted the wheel revolutions, let myself get just as excited as if the whole thing was completely on the up and up. Boy was that fun! Nothing like being a little tipsy and living out a fantasy in real life.

  9. #9
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    Ah, Jim,
    I covered the S&D Reflector from end to end.

    But - if the occasion is a Steamboat Celebration, let's call it that. It truly is Maker's Mark Day on the river (or Black Label and river water or a Southern Comfort-plus-Doctor Pepper blend) so why not name it "A River of Bourbon" to honor King Louis, the city's namesake? We could load a keg (pronounced "cag" here) of whiskey and a dipper on each boat. We could load the Chatauqua Belle on a truck and bring it here to be the escort boat. But don't call it a race.
    And my shorts ain't bunched. They're twisted!

  10. #10
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    *Steamboat race reality.*
    Steamboating colleagues:
    Interesting comments, views, memories above RE: the purported 'Great Steamboat Race' in Louisville. I was on the DQ for the 1st race in 1963 and a number after that until my university graduation, tours of military duty and eventually job responsibilities kept me away. I'd had my day. Then tickets were sold at high prices; VIP groups booked the boats and the novelty did slightly fade--yet I took it for what it was appreciating the chance to relive the history/tradition. Betty Blake and BELLE OF LOUISVILLE officials did a fine job of organization back then with national/international coverage--for a short time. Yes, the U.S. Coast Guard was aboard the DQ aplenty to watch and supervise, which is their role and responsibility.

    In later years Betty Blake, still with the company, mused to us, "I really wonder how long this can continue with interest from the public?" Cincinnati media--jealous of the big Louisville event--gave digs that, "It was like watching paint dry...rigged from start to finish." When 'Tall Stacks' was born [YOU remember 'Tall Stacks,' don't you all?] it was another matter and touted to the high heavens here in Cincinnati as one of the "top events world wide." But that's another story.

    I personally don't think Louisville has done anything wrong with the basic event itself. Times change, interest dwindled, people look for something with a 'new twist,' color and excitement. Many younger people today live on the computer with a 'thrill a minute' mentality. Also the race was at the same time when many people were just leaving work or some schools for home. Lots of variables. When the great NATCHEZ came to Cincinnati several years ago a big race was scheduled on that cool, glorious October Sunday. I boarded the BELLE OF CINCINNATI. We were more than shocked to see no crowds on the Kentucky side with only a few people standing on the Cincinnati Public Landing. A small crowd booked for the B. of C. Up river and down when we turned a few did come out on porches and condo balconies to look and wave. Passing PAUL BROWN STADIUM crowds were being seated for a football game. The calliopes/whistles roared and with binoculars we watched some of the ball crowd stand to look or saunter to the stadium railings. Other ball game attendees marched across the bridges like ants. They had their minds on other things.

    'Block buster' events often have a birth, life and eventual death. Yet there are exceptions going on for generations like ROSE BOWL, MARDI GRAS etc. Organizers/promoters often have to stop, examine, assess and re-work to keep all moving ahead. I wish nothing but the best for Louisville at Derby time.

    Well, what do I know?

    Coal Haven Landing, Ohio River.

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