Owensboro Riverport Authority | 1771 River Road | P.O. Box 21955 | Owensboro, Kentucky 42304
 
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Riverport Day draws big crowd

October 28, 2012


Visitors take a tour on the Ohio River via a barge while passing a large material handler Saturday during the Owensboro Riverport Authority's Discover Owensboro Riverport Day. The event emphasized the three modes of transportion with barge rides on the Ohio River, railroad boxcar rides and hayrides on a truck for the public. Others activities included cooking demonstrations, family portraits, balloons, preschool hay maze, tractor safety demonstrations, corn hole, sailboat races, large scale boat puzzles, working lock and dam model, storytelling and a playground featuring actual riverport equipment.

By Rich Suwanski

Messenger-Inquirer

Organizers said about 1,500 attended the first Discover Owensboro Riverport Day on Saturday at the terminal by the Ohio River.

The event on the sprawling, 300-acre facility offered barge rides, railroad boxcar rides and hayrides on a truck to show the three methods of Owensboro Riverport Authority transportation.

Couples as well as families visited, bundled up against autumn temperatures and a chilly wind off the river.

The grounds were adorned with pumpkins, hay bales and mums to brighten up the grayness of the work area, where hardhats are typically worn Monday through Friday. But on Saturday, friendly ORA personnel pointed visitors toward the rides, music and free food.

Just inside the gate, visitors saw a gleaming 18-wheel semitrailer owned by First Class Services Trucking in Lewisport. The hot oil tank can haul up to 7,200 gallons of tar or creosote, although the vehicle in particular was a show truck.

People walked between the huge storage facilities, observed the tanks and cranes and lined up for the barge ride that took them to the downtown bridge and back on a 45-minute excursion. The barge had several rows of hay bales for riders' seating, but most people went to the edge to get close to the water. Safety panels surrounded the barge, protecting the riders.

"I haven't been on a barge before," said Owensboroan Greg Williams after disembarking.

"It was fun," his daughter Ashley Williams said. "Water splashed him in the face."

Greg Williams said he'd never seen the new Smothers Park, Owensboro's downtown gem, from the river before and termed it "real nice."

Utica's Noel Bidwell said he'd been to ORA about 20 years ago when it was a smaller operation.

"It's a whole lot bigger now," Bidwell said.

Rod Kuegel, ORA's board chairman, said the facility took off 10 to 15 years ago when aluminum was a good investment and businessmen stored it here.

"Aluminum put us on the map," Kuegel said. "Aluminum would come in from Russia. But when the economy went south, people stopped investing in it, so our staff had the vision to emphasize agriculture.

"We built tanks for liquid fertilizer and expanded our dry fertilizer operation. It's been a great thing for our city's economic development. We pay the city dividends in excess of $200,000 a year."

Dahl and Groezinger has a facility at ORA from which it ships scrap metal to China.

"From time to time, someone buys a bargeload of stuff and wants to bring it to Owensboro and unload it," Kuegel said.

Kuegel said he'd never taken a barge ride and was looking forward to it.

Owensboro's Jason Yocum, dressed in Chicago Bears gear, attended the event with his family because he "hadn't seen it before."

"We came to do all the fun things," he said as he headed toward the ramp to the barge ride.

Frances Boarman said she knew the facility was west of the city around Bon Harbor Hills, but had no reason to see it before.

"I thought the barge ride was interesting," she said. "It's good to know what's going on in Owensboro. This is nice."

Rich Suwanski, 691-7315, or rsuwanski@messenger-inquirer.com

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