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Riverboat docks in city this weekend

Sounds of tugboat whistles will give way to calliope music this weekend as the Delta Queen pulls alongside Center Street Landing.

Friday, August 27, 1999

Sounds of tugboat whistles will give way to calliope music this weekend as the Delta Queen pulls alongside Center Street Landing. The boat’s Sunday afternoon docking will mark a reunion of the iron town with the famous steam-powered paddlewheeler.

In the 1960s, the city was always a regular stop for passengers riding the Mississippi and Ohio’s scenic waterways, Ironton Mayor Bob Cleary said.

"So, likewise, we’d like to see them make us a regular stop again," Cleary said.

The city, Ironton Business Association, Lawrence County Historical Society, Chamber of Commerce, VFW and others have planned activities for the riverboat’s 160 passengers when they arrive at 1 p.m.

Brief ceremonies and a flag-raising will be followed by a bus tour of the area, including stops at historical homes, St. Lawrence O’Toole Church and First Presbyterian Church, Cleary said.

The historical society will host an ice cream social at the Lawrence County Museum on Sixth Street, he said.

At Ohio University Southern Campus, Delta Queen passengers will view the sequicentennial industrial photograph exhibit, a quilt show, a car show and listen to live music.

Organizers have known about the riverboat’s stop for about a month, but were sworn to secrecy because the trip is a "mystery cruise," Cleary said.

Because passengers sometimes tire of stopping at the same riverports on each journey, the Delta Queen captain occasionally organizes a surprise package, he said.

"The customers know where they’re getting on and getting off at the beginning and end of the trip, but have no idea where they’re stopping in between," he added. "And that became a wonderful opportunity for us."

But, the idea of convincing the Delta Queen to dock in Ironton surfaced several months ago with city leaders, the IBA and others, Cleary said.

"It goes by here all the time and Huntington, (W.Va.,) has been privileged to have it stop in the past, so we thought, ‘Why can’t we?’"

A phone call to the Delta Queen Steamboat Company proved fruitful and now the city is ready to entertain, he said.

"It was very short notice getting everybody in place but a lot of different groups have helped and it has come together," Cleary said. "It’s an exciting visit to have Delta Queen stop here after being absent for the past 30 years."

The city has hopes to make Ironton a regular riverboat stop in the future, he said.

Transportation for Delta Queen passengers has been donated by the Eagles, IBA, the Lawrence County Area Community Action Organization and the New York New York Limo Service.