July 22, 2008

American Queen to Visit La Crosse on Thursday

By Steve Cahalan, La Crosse Tribune, Wis.

Jul. 22--The American Queen steamboat will make the first of this year's 14 scheduled visits to La Crosse from 1 to 5 p.m. Thursday, during a trip from St. Louis to St. Paul.

The public is invited to help local dignitaries welcome passengers and crew members as they get off the boat at Riverside Park and to help bid them farewell when they depart. The Grand River Singers will perform in the park from 4 to 5 p.m., said Clarissa Bates, La Crosse Area Convention and Visitors Bureau director of development.

Members of the La Crosse County Historical Society and the Sons of Norway will help greet passengers and crew members, and will be available to answer their questions, Bates said. And buses will take passengers to area attractions.

Steamboat visits to La Crosse are a boost to local tourism, Bates said. Besides the visiting passengers and crew members, some area residents drive to the park to see the steamboats, she said.

"Obviously, the people that come to see the boats typically end up spending money somewhere in La Crosse, whether it be gas, lunch, soda or whatever," Bates said. Crew members buy food and other items they need on the boat and many passengers buy items at downtown stores, she said.

No La Crosse visits are scheduled this year by sister ships the Delta Queen, which is cruising the lower Mississippi and the Ohio and Cumberland rivers in what might be its final year; or by the Mississippi Queen, which is out of service and needs to be refurbished.

Ambassadors International Inc. announced April 29 it plans to sell Majestic America Line, which operates the steamboats. But Ambassadors said it is committed to operating the 2008 season.

Later this year, the Delta Queen will lose its exemption to a law that bars overnight trips by boats with wooden superstructures. A Save the Delta Queen Campaign continues, aimed at getting Congress to renew the exemption.

The American Queen will visit the city again from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. July 28 on its way back to St. Louis.

Its first visits to La Crosse this season had been scheduled for July 10 and 14, but that cruise was canceled because of flooding from southern Wisconsin to Missouri.


This year's La Crosse stops by the American Queen:

--Thursday and July 28

--Aug. 7, 11, 21 and 25

--Sept. 4, 8, 18 and 22

--Oct. 2, 6, 16 and 20

Steve Cahalan can be reached at (608) 791-8229 or [email protected]


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