May 2009


Us performing at the StoneFort Inn.

Us performing at the StoneFort Inn.

While we wait for the Delta Queen Hotel to open, Laura and I regularly perform at the weekend receptions at the historic StoneFort Inn. This beautiful hotel is owned by Delta Queen Hotel partner Sydney Slome. He and his lovely staff hosted us for quite a while before we moved aboard the boat. It’s been great practice for us in preparing for our lounge performances in the Delta Queen’s Texas Lounge soon.

If you’re ever in town and the Delta Queen is full, I highly recommend this gorgeous property. www.stonefortinn.com

Banjo Bob strumming on the port side Cabin Deck.

Banjo Bob strumming on the port side Cabin Deck.

Monday afternoon as the crowds swarmed around the Delta Queen, we were so glad to see a steamboater come aboard. Banjo Bob Stevens came down from Nashville to visit. He, of course, had his banjo with him and quickly found a spot on deck to begin entertaining. This was a wonderful addition to the experience and helped occupy guests as they waited for the next tour to begin. Thanks again to Bob for jumping in!

Bob and his friend Liz joined Laura and I, Jennifer and her friend Ron and we all headed over to Big River for some refreshment. It was a great evening to catch up and reminisce. Liz and Ron kindly endured many a steamboat story.

Having fun with friends.

Having fun with friends.

This was a real treat for Jennifer, Laura, and I who daily morn the empty hallways where our friends should be. We miss the crew of the Delta Queen terribly. I walk through the dining room and wonder what Maurice or Darrell are up to. The Purser’s office is a shell without Jonena around to brighten up the boat. Every wall and carpet and piece of furniture misses Lloyd. Will it ever be the same without Bob Schad around? The list could go on for days. Wherever you all are, please know we are missing you and wishing you the best.

Jennifer Lemmon working her tour guide magic.

Jennifer Lemmon working her tour guide magic.

Wow, what a weekend! We opened for public tours on Saturday, Sunday and Monday. Laura and I were on a local TV show earlier this week, did an interview on a popular radio talk show, and the paper featured the tours on the cover of their Memorial Day Weekend edition! Needless to say, we were packed. It was crazy. But it was a great opportunity to introduce almost 1,000 people to the lovely Delta Queen. Unfortunately, the boat’s air conditioning is not running yet and it was really hot and stuffy onboard, but Laura, Jennifer Lemmon, and several volunteers helped out in managing the crowds and making sure they all had a great time.

That is one terrific positive in the sad situation of the Delta Queen being forced into retirement. Now, thousands of folks who could never have afforded a cruise will at least be able to come aboard, stay overnight, or enjoy dinner or a drink, and take a tour of the boat, learn about her history and keep this legacy alive.

It wasIMG_0607 a remarkable weekend and everyone seemed very excited about the boat opening on June 5. I know we are!

The Chattanooga Times Free Press has been such a terrific supporter of the Delta Queen here in Chattanooga. We are going to open up for public tours for the Memorial Day Weekend and I sent out a press release and sent over a few photos from our recent photo shoot. They used us for the cover of the weekend section!

IMG_0570

Yep, that’s Laura and I in the beautiful costumes from our “Showboat Serenade” show. Much thanks to Jennifer Lemmon who helped in taking this photo.

The center spread of the paper had additional photos and focused on the boat’s history and promotion of the tours. We also plan to reawaken the calliope again on Saturday!

The huge project of repositioning the stage has now been completed. It now connects the far starboard side of the bow over to the concrete ramp sidewalk at Coolidge Park. Very handy and easy. Here’s a little slide show of some of the pictures I took of this undertaking. Enjoy.

Bill and Laura with host Don Welch.

Bill and Laura with host Don Welch.

Laura and I were invited to appear on the “This and That” show with Don Welch on Chattanooga’s ABC affiliate. We went on to promote the HipFest festival in Coolidge Park this weekend. We’ll perform in the park and the Delta Queen will open for public tours. Big fun!

Don’t you think Laura looks like one of those gorgeous newscasters?! I unfortunately look as goofy as ever!

Along with the other makeover efforts, even the wheel got a pressure washing and fresh coat of paint. Boy is she red and sparkling!painting wheel

Jennifer by the DQ stack.

Jennifer by the DQ stack.

Wow, the boat is really looking great. So much work continues to spruce up the old gal. Painting of decks, polishing, cleaning – she sure takes a lot of love. We can’t wait to get open soon and share this with the public! Jennifer Lemmon (former Delta Queen Tour Manager) helps out with every possible task imaginable. Here’s a photo of her up top on the hurricane deck sweeping. We’re having so much fun with Jennifer and so thankful that there’s a real “steamboater” around to reminisce and laugh with!

Me at the TaleSpin storytelling festival.

Me at the TaleSpin storytelling festival.

I am honored to have been invited to give six different presentations during Chattanooga’s Talespin storytelling festival. Yesterday and today I joined a parade of incredible storytellers for presentations to school groups. I would guess we’ve had around 800 kids! I haven’t had so much fun in a long time. Afterward, one boy today even asked me for an autograph! It was just about the coolest thing ever!

Tomorrow (Saturday) I will give presentations open to the community at the Creative Discovery Museum and in downtown’s Miller Plaza. To read more about this terrific community event, CLICK HERE.

During my years on the riverboats researching, writing and performing historical presentations, it was such a joy to me to become increasingly aware that at the core of most historical events is a truly great story. History is storytelling. The people, the places, the events, the impact and significance of the event, can all be woven together into a riveting tale. And if the audience is not careful, they might even learn something. 

I loved showing the kids that history can be fun. Sometimes all it takes is just the right encouragement. For me, my precious grandmother always encouraged me to write down the stories from the river. She gave me the spark to chronicle some of these tales and even to record them. I will always be thankful for the gentle way she pushed me forward. Over more than a decade on the river, that spark of hers has grown into my River History Series of audio CD recordings which range from the Civil War to Mark Twain. By the way, if you’re interested in those CDs, you can learn more about the series by CLICKING HERE.

Her inspiration also has pushed me toward larger writing projects. I am sharing with the TaleSpin audiences a taste of one of the books I am working on about the incredible first voyage of a steamboat down the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers. Besides my talks and CD recording on this subject, I also am working on a book. This one journey, an incredible adventure story, truly changed the development of our country’s western expansion. This is also one of the presentations I will be giving as part of the Delta Queen’s learning program. I feel proud to be a part of keeping the stories of the river alive.

Today seemed to be nature day.

squirrelThe day started with this cute little visitor on our balcony at the Stone Fort Inn. He was more than willing to pose for pictures. I think he’s interested in being a contestant on the new TV show “America’s Top Squirrel.”

IMG_0378The flowers in the park are blooming beautifully. A few brief thunderstorms have turned everything green and lovely.

 

geese

 

And then this afternoon a pair of proud geese parents brought down their little ones to see the Delta Queen.

Ahh, springtime in the South.

Next Page »