Celebration of Riverboat Heritage in Honor of Belle of Louisville’s Centennial Anniversary

December 20th, 2013

Louisville will be the host of the Centennial Festival of Riverboats, a historic gathering and celebration of American riverboat heritage occurring downtown October 14-19, 2014. The event, being held to honor the 100th birthday of the Belle of Louisville, will be marked by the gathering of nine different riverboats from across the country, all cruising the same span of the Ohio River over the course of the six day festival held at Louisville’s internationally-acclaimed Waterfront Park. Tickets for the event are available for purchase from now on at www.festivalofriverboats.com.

“The Belle of Louisville is one of our city’s, and our country’s, greatest historical assets,” said Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer. “We’re thrilled to be celebrating her in style next year at the Centennial Festival of Riverboats, an event already generating buzz and excitement all across the country.”

Festival goers will have the opportunity to not only show their local pride by taking cruises on the Belle of Louisville, but also to participate in music, dinner, tasting and special event cruises on eight other boats as well, all gathered from river ports around the country for this special occasion. Additionally, all are welcome to enjoy the celebration happening on the banks of the Ohio River at Louisville’s award-winning Waterfront Park. Hosts in Louisville will be bringing the best of what the Bluegrass has to offer to the Festival, including concerts, bourbon tastings, artistic pavilions, fireworks shows and storytelling, all amongst the visual spectacle of nearly a dozen riverboats meeting on the Ohio River.

The other boats that will be joining the Centennial Festival of Riverboats are: Spirit of Jefferson (Louisville, KY), Belle of Cincinnati (Cincinnati, OH), Spirit of Peoria (Peoria, IL), River Queen (Newport, KY), General Jackson (Nashville, TN), Anson Northrup (St. Paul, MN), Colonel (Galveston, TX), American Queen (Memphis, TN)

“I am often asked why I have volunteered to organize the Centennial Festival and answer is simple: everyone loves the Belle of Louisville. No matter where you live – east, south, west or southern Indiana – the Belle brings us together as a community,” said Neville Blakemore, Chair of the Centennial Festival of Riverboats. “I am looking forward to this once in a lifetime event to celebrate the Belle of Louisville’s 100th Birthday.”

To date, the Festival planning team has pre-sold over 5,000 tickets to the event, and raised over $755,000 in funds and in-kind donations from the following community partners: Louisville Metro Government, Ogle Foundation, Inc., Louisville Convention & Visitors Bureau, KY Department of Travel and Tourism, Waterfront Development Corporation, Galt House Hotel, The Gheens Foundation, Inc., the City of Jeffersonville, the City of New Albany, Clark-Floyd Counties Convention-Tourism Bureau, Atlas Machine & Supply, Inc., Jefferson County Public Schools, Louisville Water Company, Metropolitan Sewer District, The Kroger Company, Old 502 Winery, and SonaBLAST! Records.

The Belle of Louisville is the oldest operating Mississippi River-style steamboat in the world. Though we know her today as the Belle of Louisville, she was originally named the Idlewild when she was built in 1914 in Pittsburgh. She was originally designed to be a ferry and day packet vessel, for freight work, and was also outfitted for her later career as an excursion boat. Completely paddlewheel-driven with a steel hull that draws only 5’ of water, she was able to travel on virtually every navigable inland waterway, earning her the distinction of being the most widely traveled river steamboat in the nation. The Belle was named a National Historic Landmark in 1989.

“Riverboat heritage is one of the most celebrated traditions in American history, and we’re lucky to have one of its most enduring symbols—the Belle of Louisville—here at home in Kentucky,” said Governor Steve Beshear. “On the occasion of the Belle’s 100th birthday, I can’t imagine a better way to celebrate than with the Centennial Festival of Riverboats.”

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