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American Queen riverboat to visit Huntington today

HUNTINGTON — The American Queen riverboat returns to Huntington today. The Queen is the largest steamboat ever built, and while it has all the amenities of modern boats, it boasts a retro design that is reminiscent of early steamboats.

The Queen, which last visited in 2014, is scheduled to arrive at noon and will be carrying approximately 374 passengers, who will spend the afternoon in Huntington before departing at 5 p.m.

“We had such a good experience when the American Queen visited us in 2014,” said Tyson Compton, president of the Cabell-Huntington Convention and Visitors Bureau, “that we’ve been working with them since that time to schedule a return. So we are very excited to welcome them.”

Compton said his office had been planning the event with a representative from Shore Excursions of America, the group that plans the outings in each city where the boat stops. “They visited us almost a year ago to review the city and our attractions here so that they could plan tours for the passengers,” Compton said.

The Queen actually has five motor coaches that travel with the boat.

“Once the passengers disembark, the motor coaches begin a cycle of what they call Hop On Hop Off tours, making continual laps throughout the afternoon so that our visitors can stay at the attractions as long as they like,” Compton said.

Two special guests will be on board the Queen as well.

“John Waggoner, Chairman of the American Queen Steamboat Company, and his wife Claudette, will be sailing on the boat,” said Ruth Richebacher, senior director of Product Development with Shore Excursions. “That entire week is dedicated to them, as we call it the ‘Chairman’s Cruise’.”

Compton said they have a nice welcome planned for the group.

“Mayor Stephen T. Williams will greet Chairman Waggoner and the captain, and present them with a special piece of Blenko Glass,” Compton said, “We have the Stony Point String Band to play riverboat music for them as they begin their trek into the city.”

Since Pullman Square is the first stop, the visitor’s bureau arranged for numerous artists with the Red Caboose to be on site there to welcome the group and offer their West Virginia wares.

“It has been three years since the American Queen has made a voyage along the Upper Ohio River,” said Richebacher. “We are all looking forward to revisiting these great ports such as Huntington who support our visitors and on-shore activities and where we were made to feel so welcome previously. We are excited to run our Hop-On Hop-Off program in town, stopping at several of the unique attractions.