Louisville just loves their races. They race just about everything and anything! In Louisville, the 2 minutes of the Kentucky Derby has expanded into an entire month of events, festivals, and races. Beginning in 1963, our sister boat, the Delta Queen competed in the first ever Great Steamboat Race against the Belle of Louisville, a race and rivalry that lasted until the Delta Queen was taken out of service just a few years ago. Once the American Queen hit the river in 1995, she joined the race, just to stiffen the competition a bit more. After Majestic America line stopped operating both the Delta Queen and the American Queen, the Belle of Louisville was left without competition. The Belle of Cincinnati came to save the day and cruised down the river and they’ve been racing the against each other since, although on a few occasions others boats have joined in. So for obvious reasons, when the American Queen entered service again just a few months ago, Louisville welcomed us with open arms to the line up for this years Great American Steamboat Race.
How does it work? Well, this year, the Belle of Louisville, the Belle of Cincinnati and the American Queen all lined up under the Rogers Clark Memorial Bridge in downtown Louisville. Each Steamboat had to pick up a “local celebrity” and a flag along the way before turning around at 6-mile island to return to the bridge at the waterfront. Spectators line the riverbank as well as ride on each boat. The winner receives the “Silver Antlers” and holds them proudly until the following years competition (The antlers were once ‘gold’ which were retired when the Delta Queen was retired in 2009).
Most importantly….who won? Well, sad to say the American Queen came in 2nd place this year, with the Belle of Louisville taking first place. However….The American Queen will be back next year – and look out, the competition will be more fierce than ever!