May 2009


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!

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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.

Cub Scouts in the Engine Room.

Cub Scouts in the Engine Room.

Another look on the bright side…

Today we had aboard a well-dressed group of visitors – a group of local Cub Scouts. We’ve also had school groups come aboard.

I’ll admit, at first I was terrified of the kids. During our cruising, we never had large numbers of them at a time. But it is so rewarding to see these kids get fascinated by the boat and really interested in the stories of the river’s history.

Cub Scouts on the Grand Staircase.

Cub Scouts on the Grand Staircase.

I think one of the great benefits to the community is the opportunity for school and community groups to come aboard the Delta Queen and learn the story of its history and its role in the steamboat era that changed this country so dramatically.

With the ever-increasing Homeland Security measures, while we were cruising no visitors were allowed aboard, only passengers who could afford the fare of thousands of dollars each week. Now anyone can come aboard, experience this treasure, and learn from its story. The Delta Queen will be more accessible to the public than ever before. I wish they could all experience her underway, cruising along a beautiful stretch of river, watching the blue herons glide from limb to log.

I think often of this boat as an old lady, a revered grandmother. Like our senior citizens, even though they physically may not be able to do everything they once could, they still have so much to share and so much to teach those of us that follow. I am grateful that the Delta Queen still has that opportunity as well.

The Delta Queen Hotel has posted a file of Questions and Answers that provides insights into what is happening with the boat in Chattanooga and what their plans are to protect, preserve, maintain and share the Delta Queen with the public. It is an interesting read. To take a look, CLICK HERE or go to their website at www.deltaqueenhotel.com and click on the “About the Delta Queen” tab on the far right side of the screen and then click on the “Articles” page. There you will find the Q and A file.

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