The Great Steamboat Race has always been one of my favorite events of the Kentucky Derby Festival. So when I had the opportunity to participate this year as a member of media riding on the Belle of Cincinnati, I happily bought tickets for the rest of my family so we could experience the race up close together.
We boarded the Belle of Cincinnati pretty early- about an hour and a half before the race started. In retrospect, that may have been a mistake. My kids were anxious for the race to start and were making me nervous by leaning over the railings. But once the race got underway, they were happy to be a part of it.
The captain did a great job of narrating the race, and he told us right up front we had to root for our boat or he would send us to time out. As we steamed toward Captain’s Quarters to pick up our VIP, the Pegasus, everyone danced and cheered.
The race is a little more complicated than just racing to the finish line. The crew of each boat competes in different activities throughout the day to rack up points that count toward the final tally. Then during the race the crews have to retrieve flags from the water and pick up their VIP before heading back to the wharf.
The Belle of Louisville ended up winning the race, and that seemed just fine to everyone in the jovial atmosphere. We joked that it was rigged, but both crews definitely put up a good fight.
The only real issue my kids had once we got underway was that it was cooler and windier than we had expected. I was the only one who had brought a sweater, so my husband and kids spent the last part of the race indoors.
We’ve been on the Belle of Louisville many times, and as much as I wish we could’ve been on the winning steamboat, we had a great time. Tickets for the Belle of Cincinnati were much less expensive than those for the Belle of Louisville, and you could choose between buffet or snack bar. There was also a Groupon available, which made it super affordable.
Steamboats are part of our cultural identity in Louisville, almost as much as the Derby itself. I’m glad my kids will have the memory of being on a steamboat for The Great Steamboat Race when they grow up.
By guest contributor: Maggie
Tickets for the 2015 Great Steamboat Race can be purchased HERE.
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