Summer cruise on Ohio draws hundreds

Published 12:00 am Saturday, July 19, 2008

SOMEWHERE ON THE OHIO RIVER — It was a time for the fashion conscious of Lawrence County to strut their stuff and strut they did.

Strolling up the gangplank of the Belle of Cincinnati Friday evening were ladies in their summer finery best. Chartreuse chiffon; Lily Pulitzer-print evening trousers; Picasso-inspired linen midi skirts.

The men were there too, just not as jazzily turned out.

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Nevertheless, all were there for a good cause: to raise money for the Ironton-Lawrence County Community Action Organization. And all were there to have fun on a dinner cruise down the Ohio on one of the area’s premier paddlewheel boats.

Inside, off the three decks, were dining rooms where the guests could watch the passing scene as they dined.

“This is a wonderful night to be on the river with good people in Lawrence County,” County Treasurer Stephen Dale Burcham said as he watched the last few board.

The idea to have the cruise started back in February as members of the CAO had seen the boat advertised and thought it could make for a delightful evening.

But first there had to be some basic logistics taken care of:

The boat had to have some place where it could be tied up.

Douglas Cade, director of operations for E. L. Robinson, engineered mooring cells with the help of Pickett Concrete, which donated the block, and McGinnis Inc., the chains.

That done, the cruise soon became a reality.

Just a few minutes after the last passengers boarded, the vibration of the engines of the Belle could be felt and off she went, heading for Greenup, Ky., at a daunting 5 miles an hour. Soon the Ironton-Russell Bridge drifted from view and there was nothing but luscious green trees foresting the riverbanks, making one and all feel much like an upscale Huck Finn.

“This is great for the city of Ironton and all of Lawrence County,” Jeff Lawless, chief deputy for the sheriff’s office, said. “There are citizens from all over the Tri-State here and to highlight this in Lawrence County is tremendous.”

“This is one more step to moving Ironton forward,” Mayor Rich Blankenship said.

There was music for every taste on each of the decks. On the top tier, disc jockey J.B. Mille and bands The Fugitives and Joe Freeman played golden oldies ranging from Michael Jackson to The Temptations.

“This is great for Lawrence County. This is a ‘Who’s Who’ of Lawrence County,” Miller said. “It’s like being at a family reunion.”

After a dinner of chicken breast in a white wine sauce or pineapple- glazed ham, diners went back on deck to watch the setting sun burn orange streamers across the sky.

Then it was time for the Belle to head for home.

Soon the pale gray-blue of night slipped over the horizon and with the moon the color of street lamps and the north star guiding her, the Belle pulled back into the Center Street boat landing.

As passengers waited for the gangplank to go back down, CAO director D.R. Gossett mused, “Everyone seems to be happy.”