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The American Queen drops anchor

NEW RICHMOND, Ky. (Rich Jaffe) -- A piece of local history was dropping anchor a few miles east of Cincinnati in New Richmond.

The American Queen Riverboat was on her way downstream from Pittsburgh and stopped by for a visit Tuesday evening.  The Queen was in New Richmond for a couple of hours as part of the bi-centennial celebration.  For the village of New Richmond, welcoming a riverboat back to its banks was like embracing a long lost child.

Ernie Wagner, captain of the Delta Queen from 1962-1979, lived in New Richmond much of his life.  As a boy, local business owner Bob Lees frequently went to work with Captain Wagner then road home on the boat.

Lees said, "At the time it just seemed like the thing you do but it was kind of amazing looking back.  It was part of the reason for moving back to my hometown from Hong Kong.  The river is just part of our DNA in this village and steam boats are the icing on the cake that comes with growing up in a river town."

Close to 70 steamboats, like the Tacoma and the Chilo, were built in New Richmond.  Where the hardware store stands used to be the steamboat office.  Many of the grand old boats were actually assembled along the river bank with lumber cut down and sawed at local mills.  Their connection to the community remained strong.

Lees explained, "Every time a steamboat comes by or to New Richmond a crowd gathers on the riverfront as a tribute to them.  And also the majesty of seeing a steamboat is very, very special in this historic village."

Right next door to Captain Wagner's home was the historic old home of riverboat captain, David Gibson.  Just in front, a riverboat memorial featuring the huge air intakes off the Delta Queen.

Lees said, "Recapturing our waterfront and turning it into a place where we celebrate our history, culture, music.  I like to say our history is our future, very heavily, I like to say our history is our future from an economic development standpoint."

One of the classic steamboat things was to hear the whistle blow as they go past, kind of like a train.  In the old days that was known as "raising hullabaloo."  It's now a violation of many community noise ordinances except in New Richmond.  There it's perfectly legal.

The boat will only be in New Richmond for a couple of hours, unfortunately visitors are not allowed to walk on board.  That would be a violation of homeland security regulations.  She is, however, headed for Cincinnati and a trip to St. Louis.

For more information about the American Queen or her itinerary CLICK HERE.

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