Flatboat, Young ‘Abe’ Start River Trip
By RICH DAVIS Courier & Press staff writer 464-7516 or firstname.lastname@example.org
A 60-foot replica of an early 19th century flatboat takes off from Rockport, Ind., today, retracing a trip Abraham Lincoln took in 1828 when he was taking a load of produce to New Orleans for a local merchant.
This time, the flatboat will be carrying heritage: the people of Spencer County, Ind., where Lincoln lived from ages 7 to 21, will share their story with folks in roughly 20 towns in eight states along the way. They’ll even have a man onboard portraying Young Abe.
The public is invited to attend the send-off for “Lincoln’s Journey of Remembrance,” starting at 11 a.m. on the Ohio River bluff in Rockport. The keynote speaker will be State Treasurer Richard Mourdock.
The 50,000-pound flatboat, owned by Ron Drake, a Washington, D.C., attorney with Hoosier roots, will stop in English Park in Owensboro, Ky., at 2 p.m., with Indiana first lady Cheri Daniels aboard.
Also participating in the first leg will be several members of the original Rockport Jaycees crew who built a simpler Lincoln flatboat in 1958 and floated it to New Orleans.
The flatboat then travels downriver to Evansville, where it will be on display at Dress Plaza from 11:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. Wednesday and again Thursday until 1 p.m.
The public can view the flatboat and learn about the trip, and activity book
lets will be available for children. The Chamber of Commerce of Southwestern Indiana also is hosting a luncheon at 11 a.m. Thursday at the Riverfront.
The boat will stop in Henderson, Ky., Thursday afternoon and be in Mount Vernon, Ind., at noon Friday to kick off that city’s two- day River Days Festival.
The 2008 journey is far more sophisticated than the 1958 trip, said Melissa Miller of the Spencer County Visitors Bureau. A manufacturer has donated high-speed engines (discreetly placed), and Toyota is providing a 2008 Sequoia to serve as a support vehicle on land. There’s a certified river pilot aboard, along with the boat’s builder, John Cooper of Tennessee.
There will be a daily blog at www.LincolnsJourney.org for online fans.
Helping compose the blog will be Casey McCoy, a journalism major at the University of Southern Indiana. He’s serving as an intern, but since he’s 6-foot-4 (and shares Lincoln’s Feb. 12 birthday) organizers plan to let him portray the young Lincoln.
Miller estimated the total cost of the project at more than $100,000, including the SUV and outboard engines. She said Drake has offered to pay for the boat’s expenses, and the Indiana Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission is providing $30,000 for educational and promotional materials. The latter includes an information tent for a portable exhibit, media kits, newspaper ads and the activity booklets for kids.
“It’s going to be a month of excitement,” predicted Miller.
n Owensboro, Ky., 2 p.m. today at English Park
n Evansville, 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Wednesday, Thursday until 1 p.m. at Dress Plaza
n Henderson, Ky., 3 p.m. Thursday at the Second Street boat ramp. Author H. Donald Winkler, who wrote “Lincoln’s Ladies: The Women in the Life of the Sixteenth President,” will be at Henderson’s riverfront visitor center from 1 to 3 p.m. for a lecture and book signing.
n Mount Vernon, Ind., noon Friday through Saturday morning. This kicks off the town’s inaugural River Days Festival featuring music, food booths, a Mr. and Mrs. Lincoln Look-A-Like Contest and a booth selling the book “Judge Lynch.”
n Cave in Rock, Ill., 2 p.m. Saturday at the Cave-in-Rock State Park, departing at 4 p.m.
n Elizabethtown, Ill., 5:30 p.m. Saturday, with a barbecue on the lawn of the Rose Hotel.
n Paducah, Ky., 3 p.m. Monday
n Metropolis, Ill., 1 p.m. Sept. 16 at Fort Massac State Park.
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