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Arts group to present steamboats

Take a step back in time and revisit the days of steamboats and showboats during "Steamboats Remembered in Story and Song" 7:30 p.

Wednesday, April 07, 1999

Take a step back in time and revisit the days of steamboats and showboats during "Steamboats Remembered in Story and Song" 7:30 p.m. April 10 in Ohio University Southern Campus’ Bowman Auditorium.

"Some of the songs are very old songs," said Gwenn Noftsger, who portrays Callie French, a famous showboat performer, in the Ironton Council for the Arts production.

"They are written by different people, and then, (John), my husband, has researched these songs to fit into his program. When he presents this program, he gives a history of the songs he’s going to sing and tells about the boats and the era. By giving the history of the songs, he helps people to understand the songs."

The first group of songs Noftsger will present will be about the flatboat, which Mrs. Noftsger said resembles a small barge.

"Lois (Kidd, another performer) gives the history of the steamboat era," Mrs. Noftsger said. "She intersperses it with funny stories about that period."

Following the historical presentation, Noftsger will present a few songs honoring the great captains of the time period and then introduce his wife, also known as Mrs. French, with an original song titled "Showboat’s A’ Comin."

"I play a showboat captain’s wife," Mrs. Noftsger said. "A.B. French was the pioneer of the famous showboat ‘French’s New Sensation.’ He started the great showboat era on the Ohio River. Showboat captains that came after him patterned their programs after Capt. A.B. French. Mrs. French worked with him on the showboat and I portray her and tell about life on the Ohio, Missouri and Mississippi rivers."

Mrs. Noftsger said that she, her husband and Mrs. Kidd travel throughout the east coast presenting this program to historical societies, riverboat societies, libraries, schools and other organizations.

But this will be their first time in Ironton, she said.

"We’ve performed in Ashland, Ky., and all up and down the Ohio River but not in Ironton," Mrs. Noftsger said.

"Steamboats Remembered in Story and Song" is sponsored by River Valley Health System.