After a century of churning her paddlewheel across North America, the Belle of Louisville will throw a massive riverfront birthday blast with hundreds of events, from cruises and parades to concerts and fireworks.
The Belle’s Big Birthday Bash will be Oct. 15-19, 2014, in Louisville, Ky.
The oldest operating Mississippi River-style steamboat in the world, the Belle of Louisville is a National Historic Landmark.
Nine riverboats are pulling in to party with the Belle, from as far away as Galveston, Texas, and St. Paul, Minn. Combined, the nine boats will travel 10,000 nautical miles to join the Bell’s party in Louisville.
Racing along the Bluegrass waterfront
Nine steamboats will be racing along the Ohio River: Spirit of Jefferson, Louisville, Ky., The River Queen, Newport, Ky.; Anson Northrup, St. Paul, Minn.; Belle of Cincinnati, Cincinnati, Ohio; The Colonel, Galveston, Texas; Celebration Belle, Moline, Ill.; and Spirit of Peoria, Peoria, Ill.
The boats will take passengers on more than 200 cruises. Also, The General Jackson from Nashville, Tenn., a showboat with a Victorian Theater, will have live music shows each day of the Riverboat Festival.
Yes, there’s even a family pirate cruise with hats and eye patches.
Cheers! Theme cruises for music, food and drink
Some of the cruises revolve around music, such as the late night music cruise. Others explore the rich natural and man-made history of the Ohio River, including the 1937 flood and today’s locks and dams.
Food will be a big part of the birthday cruises, from breakfast, lunch and dinner cruises to ice cream socials and beer and wine tastings. And since this is Kentucky, bourbon-tasting cruises, of course.
The parade of all boats will be Saturday, Oct. 18, followed by the birthday party and fireworks cruises.
On shore during the birthday bash, Louisville Waterfront Park will rock with balloon glows, concerts and fireworks. Tickets are on sale now.
When you go
The Belle’s Big Birthday Bash will be Oct. 15-19, 2014. More information about Louisville and Kentucky.
Belle of Louisville
The Belle of Louisville, the oldest operating Mississippi River-style steamboat in the world, is a National Historic Landmark. She will hit 100 years old in October 2014.
Tall Stacks of the Belle of Louisville
The Belle of Louisville gets up a head of steam for a cruise. She began life in 1914 as the Idlewild from her shipyard in Pittsburgh, Pa. She was designed as a ferry, and began her long working life on Oct. 18, 1914, ferrying between Memphis, Tenn., and West Memphis, Ark.
Belle of Louisville paddlewheels
The mighty scarlet paddlewheels of the Belle of Louisville churn up the waves of the Ohio River. She is completely paddlewheel-driven, with a steel hull that draws only five feet of water.
Climb up into the Belle of Louisville
One of the internal stairwells within the Belle of Louisville welcomes excursion passengers aboard. She began life as a ferry and day packet vessel for freight work, but was refitted later for leisure passengers.
Old ticket window of the Belle of Louisville
Passengers no longer queue here for tickets, but the old ticket window is part of the charm of the century-old Belle of Louisville. Because of her shallow draft, the Belle can travel on virtually every navigable inland waterway–she is America’s most widely traveled river steamboat.
Belle of Louisville sign
Below decks, the crew knows exactly what to do. The Belle has long outlived her cohorts built in 1914, when the average lifespan of a steamboat was three to five years. Remarkably, she has taken nearly seven million people on an Ohio River cruise.
Old pennant on Belle of Louisville
A crew member wove an old Belle of Louisville pennant through the cables of his work station below decks. The boat began life as the Idlewild in 1914, then was rechristened the Avalon in 1948. In 1962, she became the Belle of Louisville.
Belle of Louisville in Cincinnati
During the most recent Tall Stacks festival along the banks of the Ohio in Cincinnati, Ohio, the Belle of Louisville starred in the boat parade. Here she goes under the landmark Roebling Bridge, the precursor to the Brooklyn Bridge whose construction was begun before the Civil War.
Golden antlers on the Belle of Louisville
The legendary Golden Antlers are awarded to the victor of the Great Steamboat Race between the Belle of Louisville and the Delta Queen. For years, the race was one of the highlights of the riverfront boat season.