Steamboat stops at Cape dock

Sunday, May 9, 2004

The elegant Mississippi Queen steamboat with about 380 passengers docked in Cape Girardeau Saturday, churning up tourism for the Mississippi River city and an excuse for locals to visit the warm and breezy riverfront.

The docking was the first of 10 scheduled stops by the Mississippi Queen and Delta Queen steamboats this year.

In all, 26 dockings are scheduled this tourist season involving the two steamboats and the River Explorer hotel barge.

Chuck Martin, director of the Cape Girardeau Convention and Visitors Bureau, said the boats draw crowds when they dock here.

"It does bring excitement to the riverfront," he said.

It also brings tourism dollars, although Martin said there are no figures on how much money the dockings pump into the local economy.

Many of the passengers shop in local stores and buy souvenirs from local museums, Martin said.

Marge Engleman, a member of the Paddlewheelers -- a local group affiliated with the CVB that greets the boats' passengers -- smiled and handed out Cape Girardeau tourism pins Saturday as the passengers embarked on bus and walking tours.

Engleman and several other Paddlewheelers do more than hand out pins with Cape Girardeau's "Where the River Turns a Thousand Tales" tourism logo. They're also the answer man, offering information on everything from the location of ATMs to beauty shops, and where tourists can stock up on batteries, drinks and other items.

The Paddlewheelers also mail off tourists' letters and postcards.

"It's fun to be down here," Engleman said.

Cape Girardeau resident David Kimes brought his 14-year-olddaughter, Kaeli, to the riverfront to see the Mississippi Queen.

"There's a fascination about the river that a lot of people share," David Kimes said.

Few steamboats travel the river these days. But more than a century ago, steamboats routinely docked in Cape Girardeau.

"Can you imaging what a thrill it was for people?" he asked.

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