Local residents will have a chance to imagine they are standing on the banks of the Mississippi in the 1800s when two traditional paddle-wheelers dock in Cape Girardeau this summer and fall.
"The boats docking are really reminiscent of a bygone era, and locals love to go down and see them dock," said Chuck Martin, executive director of the Cape Girardeau Convention and Visitors Bureau.
Kent Zickfield, owner of Zickfield Jewelry & Gifts on North Main Street in downtown Cape Girardeau, has seen a number of historic riverboats stop during the last 45 years he has been in business. He said he has sometimes made a lot of sales to passengers but that the event brings more than simply customers.
The visits attract interest to the city, Zickfield said, and tourists can provide valuable outside perspectives on Cape Girardeau and feedback to local businesses.
"It does bring a lot of excitement, a lot of fun," Zickfield said. "We've always enjoyed their stopovers here."
The American Queen will stop July 2 on its journey from Memphis, Tenn., to St. Louis and give passengers the opportunity to go on guided bus tours of Cape Girardeau's floodwall murals, Red House Interpretive Center, Old St. Vincent's Catholic Church, the Glenn House, the Crisp Museum at the River Campus, the River Heritage Museum and the Convention and Visitors Bureau.
It is the American Queen's maiden season after a complete refurbishment. As part of an effort to conform to tradition, it's propelled by a salvaged 1930s steam engine, said Anthony Vargas of the boat's operator, Uncommon Journeys of Oakland, Calif.
The Queen of the Mississippi is a brand new craft. According to its website, it was designed and built to "recreate the grandeur of past riverboats while possessing the latest safety, environmental and construction technologies." As it paddles from Nashville, Tenn., to St. Louis, it will stop in Cape Girardeau on Aug. 30 and bus passengers on trips to Trail of Tears State Park, Old St. Vincent's Catholic Church and the Crisp Museum.
Anyone interested in stepping aboard the Queen of the Mississippi while it is docked can contact its operator, American Cruise Lines of Guilford, Conn., in advance of its visit to schedule a tour. The American Queen does not offer public tours.
For extended excursions, new and refurbished paddle-wheelers have replaced historic riverboats that had wooden hulls and superstructures such as the Delta Queen, which used to stop in Cape Girardeau. According to the Safety of Life at Sea Act, boats constructed of combustible materials have been banned from taking overnight trips with more than 50 passengers.
The boats will dock at Riverfront Park, at Broadway and North Water Street in Cape Girardeau on the following dates and times:
* July 2, noon to 5 p.m.
* Sept. 12, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
* Nov. 13, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Queen of the Mississippi
* Aug. 30, 2 to 4:30 p.m.
* Nov. 5, 9 to 11:30 a.m.
Broadway and North Water Street, Cape Girardeau, MO