A fresh perspective from the river

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

This May, visitors to Cape Girardeau's downtown riverfront may notice an unusual sight when they cross the floodwall at Broadway and Water Street -- a big white yacht called The Grampa Woo.

The Grampa Woo is a 115-foot boat that offers visitors another perspective of Cape Girardeau.

"It's dramatically different to watch the shore going by instead of watching the water rush by from shore," said the Grampa Woo's captain, Dana Kollars. "It's more than a 360-degree turn. All the senses are changed dramatically, even the sense of smell. There's nothing like feeling the river beneath your feet."

The yacht provides views of Cape Girardeau's riverfront sights like Old St. Vincent's Church and Seminary and a fresh perspective on the Common Pleas Courthouse and steps as seen going up Themis Street.

Passengers also get a view of the Bill Emerson Memorial Bridge from a different angle -- underneath it.

This isn't the first year the luxury river yacht has visited Cape Girardeau. The boat made a stop here in early 2003 during which Cape Girardeau Convention and Visitors Bureau president Chuck Martin met with Kollars.

"My immediate reaction was, 'Let's talk. What's it going to take to get you to come to Cape?'" said Martin. That fall, the boat took city leaders on a trial cruise and a deal was soon in the works.

The Grampa Woo made two stops here in 2004, one in spring and one in fall, and the reception in the community was great enough that the Kollars decided to come back for a monthlong excursion this month.

"The people are wonderful in this city," said Kollars' wife, Chun Ae. "They make us feel really at home here."

Dana Kollars' knowledge of the river's cultural and physical characteristics make him sound like a native. He narrates the cruises, at one point explaining the interaction between Cape Rock and the river as the yacht passes through turbulent waters.

"The turbulence you feel is caused by the Cape," he says as the Grampa Woo passes Cape Rock. "The rock has resisted hundreds of thousands of years of erosion. Here it drops from 24 feet to a 70-foot chasm. The rock has turned the Mississippi River 90 degrees."

The Kollarses have fallen in love with the culture and landmarks of this old river town and their cruises in the area emphasize that. Trips to the Trail of Tears narrated by Dr. Frank Nickell, director of the Center for Regional History, emphasize the area's history, and a special cruise Saturday features storyteller Bobby Norfolk playing William Clark's slave, York.

Some cruises will also offer old riverboat-style entertainment with jazz from the Jerry Ford Band.

During the cruises, passengers can experience the fresh air on the sun deck, then go inside the climate-controlled cabin for their drink of choice.

This is only the beginning of a long relationship with Cape Girardeau, said the Kollarses, as they expect to be docking the Grampa Woo here for years to come -- not only for locals, but to bring in visitors as well.

"So far we've been able to introduce local people who live here to the river," said Dana Kollars. "Our vision is to bring in visitors and introduce them to the cultural resources of Cape Girardeau."


335-6611, extension 182

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