Saturday, June 17, 2006

TOWING THE LINE TO GRAFTON, IL - Great Rivers Towboat Festival 2006: Blues & BBQ

Great Rivers Towboat Festival 2006: Blues & BBQ

Tow your way down to where the Mighty Mississippi and Illinois Rivers meet to celebrate the river at the annual Great Rivers Towboat Festival on Saturday, June 24 and Sunday, June 25 on the riverfront in Grafton, Illinois. A little of blues, a little bit of barbeque and a whole lot of fun touring working towboats and experiencing life on the Mississippi River.

This year’s festival will roll down the river to the tune of the Blues all weekend long with music performed by one of St. Louis’ finest blues band - Five Long Years Blues Band. Straight from Paducah, KY, the Pork-n-Canoe BBQ Crew, courtesy of Marquette Transportation Company, will be serving up some of the best barbeque in the Midwest hot from the grill – a towboat-shaped grill, of course!

The highlight of the festival will be the free towboat tours. From noon to 4 p.m. each day, festival-goers will have the rare opportunity (weather permitting) to tour two working towboats: the “Twyla Luhr” provided by the Luhr Brothers of Columbia, IL and “Andi Boyd” from B&H Towing from Paducah, KY. The tours will give visitors a chance to see how towboats work and allow them to take a glance into the lives of real towboat workers and crew members during the long months they spend on the river.

The festival will also feature historical and educational displays about the Mississippi River. The Seaman Church Institute of Paducah, KY, will have an informational display detailing the ways they keep families together despite the extended time towboat workers spend on the river. Jack Simpson of Little River Books in Florissant, MO, will present historic maps, logs and books detailing river traffic, while Rose Stauffer, 30 years a cook on towboats, will be presenting several of her cookbooks published by Bean Burner Books. Datatronics will be bringing radios to talk with boats passing by on the river. Vendors displaying art, books, and Port of Grafton souvenir T-shirts and pins will be present throughout the weekend.

Again this year, visitors will be able to try their hand at steering a boat – a radio-controlled boat that is. The St. Louis Admirals Club will display their radio-controlled boats of all kinds in a 11,000-gallon “moat” constructed riverside. Kids of all ages will be amazed at the handmade replicas of river vessels controlled like the big ones in the palm of your hand.

Great music, great food and great fun can all be found at the Annual Great Rivers Towboat Festival. The festival is free. Festival hours are Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Sunday from 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. River conditions permitting, the towboat tours will run from 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. on both days. For more information on this event, call 618-786-7000 or 1-800-ALTON-IL or go to