Riverboat brings hundreds of tourists to explore city
HUNTINGTON — If you had trouble finding a parking spot at Harris Riverfront Park on Thursday morning, there was a perfectly good explanation.
The American Queen, the largest sternwheel riverboat on the Mississippi and Ohio rivers, made a scheduled stop in Huntington as part of its nine-day cruise from Pittsburgh to Louisville, Kentucky.
A total of 383 passengers came off the American Queen on Thursday morning and were given the opportunity to explore what the Huntington area
had to offer. That number was higher than the Queen’s first visit in 2014 (374) and a 2017 visit, which brought in 158 passengers.
“They couldn’t believe the reception they got here,” Cabell-Huntington Convention and Visitors Bureau President Tyson Compton said. “From the music that we had set up at the riverfront to how inviting the people of Huntington were when they got off the boat, I think everyone had a good time.”
Lloyd Gentry, 75, from Greencastle, Indiana, is no stranger to riverboat cruises; this run on the American Queen is his 11th. The retired U.S. Army Reserve pilot said he spends the majority of his time traveling all over the country, but prefers riverboats because of the opportunity to connect with other travelers while exploring new places.
“It’s relaxing to watch the river go by, but you also get to know everybody, from the captains to the entertainers to the other people on the boat,” Gentry said. “I try and have dinner with the captains every chance I get just because I can. You learn a lot.”
The American Queen touring company provides three motor coaches for travelers to explore each city along the way. City ambassadors were on board each bus that dispersed throughout Huntington to help answer questions from visitors and provide additional information about the city. The CVB hosted a pop-up artisans market at Pullman Square downtown as part of welcoming the on-board crew.
Compton said the day was not only about the visitors, but also for those in the Huntington community. Many gathered at the riverfront to send the boat off when it continued downriver around 1 p.m. and also spent some time — and money — downtown.
“I got to talk with some of the local artisans at Pullman today, and they had quite a few sales from local people there today,” Compton said. “We wanted our people to enjoy the day, too, and I think that it was a success.”
The remaining stops on the nine-day journey include Augusta, Kentucky, Cincinnati and Madison, Indiana, before the Queen reaches the end of her journey in Louisville.
Compton confirmed that the American Queen will try and make a return trip to Huntington on July 25, 2019, though a contract with the city has not been signed yet.
Follow reporter Luke Creasy at Facebook.com/creasyHD or on Twitter @lewk_creasy.