American Countess making initial stop here today

Jun. 17—The American Countess, the newest paddlewheeler from American Queen Voyages, will make its first visit to the Owensboro riverfront, stopping at 8 a.m. Friday, June 17 at English Park.

It is scheduled to return on June 26 and June 30.

Mark Calitri, president of the Owensboro-Daviess County Convention & Visitors Bureau, said he was in Louisville earlier this week meeting with Mike Berry, secretary of the Kentucky Tourism, Arts and Heritage Cabinet, and officials from American Queen Voyages.

The meeting was to encourage the company to make more stops in Kentucky with its paddlewheelers — the American Queen, American Duchess and the American Countess.

"The American Queen Voyages tours create new opportunities for our industry that will help drive tourism dollars to river communities and attractions throughout the commonwealth," Berry said in an email. "This unique travel experience, combined with the governor and General Assembly's bipartisan investment in the tourism industry, play a key role in our efforts to position Kentucky as premiere travel destination."

The company said in an email, "We are extremely proud of our newest paddlewheeler, her incredible officers/crew and equally proud she calls on seven ports in Kentucky throughout the year."

It added, "Our team looks forward to collaborating on many items discussed together, including state agritourism, the Unfiltered Truth Collection, the Bluegrass Hall of Fame, Meade County Civil War Days and all things bourbon."

The boat's website says it can carry up to 245 passengers with a crew of 110.

The Countess is 318 feet long and has four decks.

"It's my job to collaborate with the American Queen team in coordinating tours with the ships' most requested partners, like the Owensboro Museum of Fine Arts, Bluegrass Music Hall of Fame, Green River Distilling and the Botanical Gardens," said Sarah Haynes, the CVB's destination sales and service manager. "Ship guests enjoy strolling along Owensboro's amazing riverfront scene and downtown shops."

Calitri said three tour busses accompany the paddlewheelers to shuttle passengers within a community.

"I also coordinate what we call hop on/hop off guides," Haynes said. "These guides ride tour buses while in Owensboro and engage with our guests and provide key information on Owensboro and Daviess County. These guides are active community members who have passion and pride about their community."

Kirk Kirkpatrick, one of the guides, said, "It's very rewarding, as visitors are always pleasantly surprised at Owensboro's amenities. The museums, riverfront and the amazing story about how they all came about. The only two things most of them know about Kentucky is the Derby and Kentucky Fried Chicken.

"It's a real wakeup call for them to see a community with such amazing quality-of-life features."

Daviess County Clerk Leslie McCarty is also a hop on/hop off guide.

"It's important to connect with our guests on a personal level," she said, "and I enjoy highlighting how significant Owensboro is to Kentucky history."

The American Countess, formerly the Kanesville Queen, a casino boat, was christened in March 2021.

"The efforts made by Owensboro's Convention and Visitors Bureau to engage the Ohio River boat excursions is of major importance in introducing Owensboro's remarkable arts community to a greater audience," said Mary Bryan Hood, director of the Owensboro Museum of Fine Art. "As the second largest art museum in Kentucky, the Owensboro Museum of Fine Art is pleased to have this opportunity to further showcase its exhibitions and permanent collections to visitors from across the country."

What's now the CVB has been trying for more than 40 years to persuade steamboat companies to make Owensboro a regular port of call.

But Calitiri said the efforts are paying off this year with the American Queen, American Duchess and the American Countess scheduled to stop at English Park 14 times by Nov. 9.

Each will bring between 150 and 400 passengers from as far away as California, Delaware, Massachusetts, Michigan and Minnesota to town, he said.

Keith Lawrence, 270-691-7301,