For many years the Ashland Oil Company chartered the Belle of Louisville on the first Saturday morning in May. That was the trip, but they also chartered the boast several days in advance during which their crews came aboard to paint, scrub and decorate. Dressing rooms were set up on the main deck. Special service bars were fitted. Hot food tables were brought aboard. A medical dispensary was set up complete with beds and emergency equipment. Helicopters and motorboats were chartered to pace the boat for emergency transportation.

On the big day limousines delivered passengers to the end of the stage and the ladies and gentlemen were hustled aboard to the dressing rooms where costumers decked them out in Nineteenth Century finery. Expensive party favors of gold, silver and encrusted gems were placed on all the tables and breakfast was served by suave and elegant waiters.

The crew was carefully inspected for cleanliness and general spiffiness and were strictly advised to stay at their posts of duty with no passages through the boiler deck unless for emergencies. None were to speak to passengers unless spoken to.

Ashland Oil's guests were among the wealthiest and most powerful industrialists and financiers in the land. Presidents and board chairmen with their ladies abounded. The trip lasted about an hour and a half and then the pride of America's board rooms were delivered to Churchill Downs by limousine. Why, if the boat had sunk the repercussions on Wall Street would have lasted for years!

Within two hours, the booths and linens and costumes and silverware were packed away and sent ashore. Then the crew breathed a collective sigh of relief and went back to the boat's customary business.