A river runs through it

  • By Kelly Wilson
  • 23 Feb, 2017

Next generation of cruise ships keeps Hannibal riverfront busy

It would be difficult to over-estimate the impact of the first commercial steamboat churning its way upstream past Hannibal around 1825; the few residents who would have seen this landmark event might have thought it a sign that their world was about to change forever. Even today, that sense of wonder exists for those who come to the riverfront to find a 3- to 5-story vessel docked at the western bank of the Mississippi, like a floating hotel.  

Just as the establishment of a national highway network and safer, faster, more comfortable cars and trucks enabled the population of cities to spread into suburbs and “exurbs,” the steamboats allowed the opening of the upper Mississippi to be more accessible to trade – leading to more jobs and settlements to the north of St. Louis. Before the use of steam engines, travel north of the Missouri River confluence would have been challenging, since the river depths are much shallower and it is prone to freezing over in winter.

A packet — or   transport — riverboat, eased trade between St. Louis and destinations north such as lead-mining giant Galena, Ill. Moses Bates, who was   pivotal in the founding of Hannibal and Galena, used Hannibal as a stopover point; it did not hurt that the region provided raw materials such as limestone, salt and other minerals to make it a profitable port. Packet boats were not restricted to supplies, rather they tended to carry just about anything necessary for life along and off the river – building materials, livestock, people, household goods, etc.

Steam power

Steamboats made the process of transport and settlement faster, which caused a growth spurt along the river. By the 1850s, accounts peg the number of ship dockings in Hannibal at greater than 1,000 annually. Railroad expansion would take some business away from the river, but not until well after the end of the Civil War. By the end of the 1800s, the rails would claim more of the passenger trade as fares would become more affordable, yet “excursion” boats remained an option into the mid-20th century.  

The decline of riverboat cruises along the upper Mississippi for years could not be pegged to just one factor: aging vessels too expensive to repair and economic recessions pushing down demand did not help the business, either. The resurgence of cruises that include Hannibal as an attraction began in 2012, and the forces behind this are a bit more clear. First, heritage tourism is booming. This tourism is based on a love of history more than simple amusement, such as traveling the Mississippi to understand the river itself as well as its role for settlers and traders. Second, Americans can enjoy the luxury of a cruise without having to obtain a passport.   In addition, themed cruises provide an experience not easily matched by other types of travel packages, featuring on-board historians, excursions at different stopovers and suites with views of the landscape.

Here come the cruisers

The American Queen Steamboat Co., whose namesake vessel is the largest steamboat ever built, began running routes in 2012. The American Queen — with a capacity of 435 people — stops six to eight times per year.

This year, the company is introducing a smaller ship named the Grand Duchess, claiming it is the first all-suite paddlewheeler built in the U.S., capable of accommodating 166 guests. The Grand Duchess is scheduled for five stops between late July and late August, with her sister ship visiting twice.  

American Cruise Lines initiated its St. Louis to St. Paul, Minn., routes almost simultaneously. Its Queen of the Mississippi boat, like the new version of the American Queen, was built specifically for use on the Mississippi River. The Queen of the Mississippi is designed to hold 150 passengers, and its brand-new counterpart, the America, can service 185 people. Together, the two are scheduled to make 17 stops from July through October; up from an average of 10 to 12 routes per season.  

A third player in the market will begin its cruises this year: the Louisiana-based French America Line will roll out its 150-capacity all-suite Louisiane ship at the end of June, scheduled to make eight stops through September. This raises the total of projected visits to 32 from 17 in 2016, though anywhere from 10 to 15 percent of scheduled stops may be canceled because of river conditions and other factors.

Nature of the river

The nature of the river north of St. Louis is often what dictates the number and timing of these 8- to 10-day cruises. Shallow depth, a network of 28 lock and dam systems, late season flooding and dredging issues can conspire to make the window for travel much shorter than that of the lower Mississippi, where cruises are possible year-round. Also, demand is higher for the warmer climate of the south, where companies have scheduled twice as many routes as those in the north. Finally, the cost of a cruise may limit the number of visitors: prices per person can range from $2,000 to up to $4,000 for a two-bed suite, and trips from New Orleans to St. Paul can exceed $9,000 for a fortnight.

Who takes these trips? While some tourists from overseas are attracted to the cruise packages, the majority of customers are U.S. citizens more than 50 years of age who are drawn to this type of travel as much as the destination. A 2015 survey of cruise ship travelers shows that roughly 40 percent have taken multiple cruises. The average income for those taking river cruises is more than $100,000 per year. In essence, the type of tourist coming by boat to Hannibal is distinct from the demographics of those who come by other means.

This economic impact of this is not easy to estimate. If the scheduling holds, more than 5,000 visitors will be brought here who may not otherwise have found their way here. Since many dockings are limited to 5 hours or less, spending is somewhat dampened.

The Hannibal Convention and Visitors Bureau, along with feedback from passengers, has been able to influence the companies enough that at least one trip from each major liner has spent a full day here each of the last two years.  

The cruise market opens Hannibal to a type of tourist not available to every river town, and the publicity and advertising   offered by the companies costs the individual communities nothing.

What about Viking?

One notable omission from the cruise schedule is Viking. One of the biggest and highest quality cruise liner companies in the world, Viking had made headlines in the area in 2014 — though rumors were surfacing before then — that it would begin its own venture onto the Mississippi by 2016, planning 28 stops in Hannibal. Now, the company is hopeful that it can deploy up to six ships, two at a time, by 2018.

The delay is because of a law enacted in 1920 called the Jones Act that requires any ship used to transport people or goods between ports inside the U.S. to have been built in an American shipyard and be entirely American-owned.  

As of late 2016, Viking was still working on a shipyard and fulfilling the other requirements.

More communities are taking advantage of the increased traffic as a way of boosting tourism through the original social network: word of mouth that spreads when travelers head home. 

- By KEN MARKS

Sharron Daniel of Australia poses under the Mark Twain sign at the Hannibal docks. Photo by Michael Kipley

ARRIVALS

AMERICAN QUEEN

July

July 16: 9-day voyage, July 23 to July 31, starts in St. Louis with destination of Red Wing, Minn. Theme is Mark Twain.

July 31: 9-day voyage, July 29 to Aug. 6, starts in St. Louis with destination of Red Wing, Minn. Theme is Mark Twain.

August

Aug. 10: 16-day voyage, Aug. 5 to Aug. 20, starts in Minneapolis with destination of New Orleans. Theme is the Mighty Mississippi.

Aug. 20: 23-day voyage, Aug 13 to Sept. 4, starts in Minneapolis with destination of New Orleans. Theme is the Mighty Mississippi.

September

Sept. 23: 9-day voyage, Sept. 16 to Sept. 24, starts in Minneapolis with destination of Alton, Ill. Theme is Life on the Mississippi.

AMERICAN DUCHESS

July

July 30: 9-day voyage, July 23 to July 31, starts in Minneapolis with destination of St. Louis. Theme is Mark Twain.

August

Aug. 1:   9-day voyage, July 30 to Aug. 7, starts in St. Loius with destination of Red Wing, Minn. Theme is Life on the Mississippi.

Aug. 13: 9-day voyage, Aug. 6 to Aug. 14, starts in Minneapolis with destination of St. Louis. Theme is Life on the Mississippi.

Aug. 16: 9-day voyage, Aug. 13 to Aug. 21, starts in St. Louis with destination of Chicago. Theme is Architecture and the Arts.

Aug. 26: 9-day voyage, Aug. 20 to Aug. 28, starts in Chicago with destination of St. Louis. Theme is Chicago Blues.

QUEEN OF THE MISSISSIPPI

August

Aug. 11: 7-day voyage, Aug. 5 to Aug. 12, starts in St. Paul, Minn., with destination of St. Louis.

Aug. 27: 7-day voyage, Aug. 26 to Sept. 2, starts in St. Louis with destination of St. Paul, Minn.

September

Sept. 8: 7-day voyage, Sept. 2 to Sept. 9, starts in St. Paul, Minn., with destination of St. Louis.

October

Oct. 8: 7-day voyage, Oct. 7 to Oct. 14, starts in St. Louis with destination of St. Paul, Minn.

AMERICA

August

Sept. 1: 7-day voyage, Aug. 26 to Sept. 2, starts in St. Paul, Minn., with destination of St. Louis.

September

Sept. 3: 7-day voyage, Sept. 2 to Sept. 9, starts in St. Louis with destination of. Paul, Minn.

Sept.15: 14-day voyage, Sept. 9 to Sept. 23, starts in St. Paul, Minn., with destination of New Orleans.

October

Oct. 4: 7-day voyage, Oct. 3 to Oct. 10, starts in St. Louis with destination of St. Paul, Minn.

Oct. 16: 7-day voyage, Oct. 10 to Oct. 17, starts in St. Paul, Minn., with destination of St. Louis.

Oct. 18: 7-day voyage, Oct. 17 to Oct. 24, starts in St. Louis with destination of St. Paul, Minn.

Oct. 30: 14-day voyage, Oct. 24 to Nov. 7, starts in St. Paul, Minn., with destination of New Orleans.

LOUISIANE

July

July 30: 8-day voyage, July 29 to Aug. 6, starts in St. Louis with destination of St. Paul, Minn.  

August

Aug. 27: 8-day voyage, Aug. 26 to Sept. 3, starts in St. Louis with destination of St. Paul, Minn.  

October

Oct. 8: 8-day voyage, Oct. 7 to Oct. 15, starts in St. Louis with destination of St. Paul, Minn.  

Partners

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UPCOMING EVENTS

Latest Headlines

By Kelly Wilson 26 Sep, 2017

The Hannibal Arts Council is proud to have sponsored the Folklife Festival for 41 years. It has become a mainstay in Hannibal’s ever-growing schedule of festivals and special events. There is rarely a lack of finding something to do in Hannibal, if you are looking it. The Folklife Festival is one of many examples of community-supported and community-created events that also draw in visitors from a wide radius around Hannibal. We are first and foremost about creating events for the enrichment of area residents, but we cannot deny that festivals and special events also attract visitors, add to our economy and help develop our cultural tourism offerings.

Recently, arts organizations in Hannibal joined 341 diverse communities and regions across the country to participate in the most comprehensive economic impact study of the nonprofit arts and culture industry ever conducted in the United States. Specific results from the Hannibal area concluded that the nonprofit arts and culture industry generates $5.09 million in annual economic activity in the Hannibal area and over $506,000 in local and state government revenues. In addition, the nonprofit arts and culture industry leverages $3.7 million in event-related spending by its audiences. As a result of attending arts events, attendees often dine in local restaurants, buy gifts and souvenirs and stay overnight.

We in the arts always knew that the arts meant business, and now we have data to back it up. We concentrate on our programs, how we serve our community and how we can enhance the lives of those who participate. A great side effect that is occurring, sometimes without us concentrating on it, is the economic impact of what arts and culture organizations are adding to our community. This study demonstrates that the arts are an economic and employment powerhouse locally and across the nation. A vibrant arts and culture industry helps local businesses thrive and helps local communities become stronger and healthier places to live. Leaders who care about community and economic vitality can feel good about choosing to invest in the arts. Nationally, as well as locally, the arts mean business.  

By Kelly Wilson 26 Sep, 2017

Richard Garey often portrays Mark Twain on stage, but as he has researched Hannibal’s people, history and its most famous resident during the last year and a half, he has been left with more creative inspiration.

“I’ve always been interested in poetry, but I’ve mainly written plays,” Garey said.

Through his research and while working on the Robards Mansion — built by a friend of Twain’s and purchased by Garey — Garey would pull out a notebook from his back pocket and jot down a few lines of poetry whenever creative inspiration struck. He eventually accumulated more than 100 poems, which he initially just read to his wife, Patricia.

“She encouraged me to publish them,” Garey said.

The result is “Hannibal at the Door: A Poetic Journey Through Mark Twain’s Hometown,” published in late July. In it, Garey shows readers Twain’s hometown through the series of poems, each of which showcases a small aspect of Hannibal as a whole through its river and residents.

“I’m excited to have my first book of poetry out,” Garey said. “The poems are kind of little vignettes.”

To go with the poems, Garey’s wife, an artist, painted illustrations for the book, and Garey’s son helped with the cover’s layout.

“This was truly a family project,” he said. “So far, I’ve gotten good feedback about it, and I’ve had to order more books because I’ve sold so many.”

Several people reviewed Garey’s book before it was released and praised it.

Garey “has captured that essence, that uniqueness, that Americanness, that very humanity and universality of Hannibal,” Vicky Crane, a retired lecturer at the University of Wisconsin, wrote of “Hannibal at the Door.” “Stabco” author Joe Schwartz wrote that he found Garey’s written voice similar to that of Twain’s.

“The Hannibal inspiration continues,” Garey said, adding that he’s also written a few more poems based on the historic city.

“Hannibal was always very important to Sam Clemens,” Garey said. “I am so lucky that each day I get to pursue my three great loves: history, theater and creative writing.”

Books may be purchased at the Planter’s Barn Theater, 319 N. Main St., and elsewhere around Hannibal. 

— By Ashley Szatala

By Kelly Wilson 26 Sep, 2017

Imagine your child receiving two hours of free tutoring four days a week, right after school. Imagine the homework finished, checked and ready for the next day. Imagine a tutoring program that coordinates with teachers and principals to help students navigate emotionally or academically difficult times.

Welcome to Hannibal’s 19-year-old Caring Hands Tutoring Program, a nonprofit that rents space at Willow Street Church to provide free tutoring to Hannibal children.

Every parent knows about homework struggles. “I forgot.” “I hate the teacher.” “It’s not fair.” Tutoring, provided by hired college students and retired teachers, provides academic support in a bully-free zone.  

When middle schooler LaPrince’s grades sank to D’s and F’s, Caring Hands knew something was amiss. He was acting out and losing ground academically. The CHTP director tracked down the cause. Bullying. Thus began a recovery plan involving the principal, teachers, grandmother and CHTP. Bullies faced consequences. Safe transportation was provided. Tutors encouraged him. By year’s end, he left his D’s and F’s behind.

Students struggle for a number of reasons: disruptive or broken homes, imprisoned or abandoning parents and even hunger. This grant- and donation-based program provides safety, academic support and food.  

Overworked parents see their children thrive. The director had to tell one student, “You are reading two levels above your grade. You’re smart.” He didn’t know.  

The program, which is open to any Hannibal child, began Sept. 11; space is limited. Sponsor for attendees are welcome, as are donations.

More information is available by calling 573-248-7242. 

— By Bella Erakko

By Kelly Wilson 26 Sep, 2017

Halloween brings out the kid in everyone, and downtown Hannibal is the place to be this year. The Historic Hannibal Marketing Council and Hannibal Parks & Recreation are going all out with a weekend full of activities for every member of the family. Best of all, most activities are free.


Falling in Love With Bats
6 to 8 p.m. Friday, Oct. 27, at Sodalis Nature Preserve

Are you afraid of bats? Then bring the family out to Sodalis Nature Preserve as we debunk bat misconceptions and learn bat facts. Participants should meet at the amphitheater at the top of the hill for an informative talk, then stay to see the bats in full swarm as they prepare for the world’s largest winter hibernation of endangered Indiana bats. Bat experts will answer all questions, and they will bring their latest gadgets to give you the ability to see the bats as they exit their caves to forage over Sodalis Lake.

Halloween Costume Parade, Living Dead Windows  
Noon Saturday, Oct. 28, in downtown Hannibal

Saturday is Family Day in downtown Hannibal. Dress up and join the Halloween Parade then stay for (the Night of the) Living Dead Windows. Building on the Living Windows exhibits at Christmas, downtown businesses will be hosting scary montages with real people in their windows during Living Dead Windows. See ghouls, ghosts and goblins enact scary scenes in the store windows. Enjoy a hot drink or snack, and walk the streets after dark.

Monster Machines, Trick-or-Treating and More
5 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 31, on Main Street

Bring the children downtown on Halloween evening, when they can explore monster machines and collect treats from local merchants. There will be all sorts of vehicles and displays from the Army, the Hannibal Fire Department, Big Rigs and more. Main Street will be closed from 3 p.m. to 9 p.m. to ensure children can run around in safety.




By Kelly Wilson 26 Sep, 2017

Hannibal Jaycees will bring Hannibal’s Halloween scene to its Warehouse of Nightmares, open every Friday and Saturday in October.

The frightful fun takes place at the old Smith Central Plumbing building at 320 S. Third St., next to the viaduct — more than 7,000 square feet with an assortment of evil clowns, flesh-eating zombies and a manic maze.

The building is open to the public 7:30 to midnight on each of those nights.

Admission is $10 per person, and the covered queue area will keep those awaiting entry out of the elements. No children younger than 5 years old will be admitted, and children younger than 12 must be accompanied by an adult.

Zombie Paintball also will return along with the Last Ride attraction, which gives the feeling of being buried alive. Be prepared to climb into a wooden casket for an extreme terror experience as your friends watch from a special casketcam.

New this year will be an escape room. You and your friends will be in a room and must find clues to solve puzzles to complete a given mission and to escape. These attractions carry an additional charge.

For details and to purchase advance tickets, visit hannibaljaycees.org, or send an email requesting information to trishaocheltree@gmail.com.

Warehouse of Nightmares is a fundraiser coordinated by the Hannibal Jaycees to support its area charitable activities.  

More information is available by contacting Trisha O’Cheltree at 636-734-1938, Emma Dooley at 573-406-5093 or Jamie Sue Bergheger at 573-822-4591.  

By Kelly Wilson 26 Sep, 2017

The 69th annual Mark Twain Marching Band Festival will kick off at 3 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 10, down Broadway Street in Hannibal. The festival typically brings together about 30 bands from as far away as Scotland County marching through the streets, starting at the corner of Grand and Broadway and heading east toward the river.

Along with a parade, about 12 bands will perform at 6 p.m. during the Field Show at Porter Stadium at Hannibal High School. Directors and students from area bands that have participated in the event have said it is the highlight of their marching season every year.

Hannibal High School encourages everyone to come out and support music in schools. The young musicians spend an incredible amount of time during the summer and fall to get ready for marching season. They love to perform for a crowd who is there to support the bands.  

By Kelly Wilson 26 Sep, 2017

Taste of Palmyra, scheduled 5 to 9 p.m. Monday, Oct. 16, offers something for everyone — food, music, children’s activities, crafts and a car and tractor show.

Young trick-or-treaters are invited to gather in costume at Palmyra’s fire station from 5 to 6 p.m. for trunk-or-treat. Several Palmyra Chamber members will offer treats from the backs of their vehicles. Palmyra Parents as Teachers are offering games for preschoolers; B&S Insurance is sponsoring a pedal pull; and Farmer’s Mutual Insurance will have football and pompom giveaways. Heritage Seekers have planned a themed tour 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at the Old Marion County Jail, and Palmyra United Methodist Church will have youth activities.    

The antique tractor show will be sponsored by B&S Insurance, and the antique and classic car show will be sponsored by Bud’s Paint & Body Shop.  

Entertaining 5:15 to 9 p.m. will be Judge Rachel Bringer Shepherd, the Mission Hillers, the Kenny Rock Band, Clockwork and the Palmyra High School pompom squad.  

Food offerings will run the gamut from chicken and noodles, ribs, catfish sandwiches, pulled pork sandwiches, cheese soup, onion rings, ice cream, kettle corn and funnel cakes.

Craft vendors will be on hand with a range of items — barn quilts, candles, flea-market finds, jewelry, kitchen towels, pampering products, handbags and fashions for women and children.

Michelle Merkel, event coordinator, said, “Come out and enjoy the festivities. When the community of Palmyra comes together for fun, friendship and reminiscing, it’s a great time for all.”

By Kelly Wilson 26 Sep, 2017

The Mount Olivet Cemetery Association invites the public to participate in its seventh annual All Saints’/Souls’ Day celebration 2 to 5 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 29. The event is free and open to the public; attendees are encouraged to bring their own seating.

All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day have been celebrated for thousands of years by cultures and religions around the world to honor deceased family members. Customs include lighting candles, offering prayers, cleaning and decorating of family members’ graves and sharing food with friends and family.  

Events at historic Mount Olivet Cemetery, 2340 Fulton Ave. (Route T) in Hannibal, will begin at 2 p.m. at the cemetery chapel area.

Pamela Reid-Wilde will play favorite hymns on the chapel’s antique pump-organ. Just outside the chapel, Michelle Goodman, Meryle Dexheimer, Regina Kinkaid, Jan Nemes, Patty Ward, Kathy Tourney and Donna Brown, a local gospel group known as the Goldennaires of South Side Christian Church in the late 1960s, will reunite to host an old-fashioned gospel sing.  

The memorial balloon release is sponsored by the James O’Donnell Funeral Home.

Jimmy O’Donnell said, “Our goal is to celebrate the lives of those who have passed while providing comfort and healing to family and friends.”  

Those interested in the balloon release are asked to meet at the chapel area between 2 and 2:30 p.m. to personalize a balloon tag. Tim Goodman, minister of Clover Road Christian Church, will officiate the ceremony.

In keeping with the celebration’s tradition, family and friends are invited to decorate loved ones’ graves for the winter season then join in a wiener roast around a bonfire at the cemetery office area.   A father-son group of Chris, Corey, and Joel Combs will perform.  

For history buffs, the cemetery staff will offer narrated hayride tours of the grounds, highlighting many of Hannibal’s historic figures buried at Mount Olivet, names including: Clemens, Coontz, Dulany, Garth, Gideon, Helm, Mahan, Pettibone, Stowell and Faurot. Others may enjoy a self-paced scavenger hunt for the various symbols carved into the older, ornate monuments.  

“We want everyone to experience what we believe is one of Hannibal’s best-kept secrets, the beauty and history that is Mount Olivet. Designed by the original board of directors as a ‘harmonious union of nature and art,’ Mount Olivet is a place where early records reveal area residents came to ‘recreate and remember.’ To that end, we invite everyone, regardless of where his/her loved one is buried, to come participate in our All Souls’/Saints’ Day Celebration,” said Donna Brown, office manager. More information is available at jamesodonnellfuneralhome.com and mtolivetcemeteryhannibal.com.

By Kelly Wilson 26 Sep, 2017

The Hannibal Parks and Recreation Department will host Pumpkins in the Park from 3 to 5 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 29, at Nipper Park.

The pumpkin decorating contest and exhibit also will feature a performance by Eugene Field Pirate Pride Singers at 3:30 p.m.

Participants will be able to walk among the decorated pumpkins and vote for favorites in three categories — spooky, artistic and silly. There will be two age groups for judging: children ages 12 and younger and those ages 13 and older.

Pumpkins must be predecorated and brought to the park between 2 and 3 p.m. They may be decorated with paint, glitter, markers, etc., but they may not be carved.

Rules are available at hannibalparks.org.  

By Kelly Wilson 26 Sep, 2017

The Saverton-Ilasco United Methodist Women will host a fall Breakfast Bazaar from 8 to 11:30 a.m. Saturday, Oct. 7.

The group will offer cinnamon rolls, muffins and doughnuts, coffee, tea, juice and milk. Available for purchase will be a wide variety of crafts including jewelry, quilted items, aprons, stationary items, purses and Halloween and Christmas decorations. Baked and canned goods and fresh produce also will be available for purchase.

Representatives from the Ralls County Health Department will offer flu shots and blood-pressure and blood-sugar screenings.

The church is situated 3 miles south of Hannibal on Mo. 79 in Ilasco. 

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