Valley Gem Sternwheeler to make 10-day stay at Harris Riverfront Park


The Valley Gem, a sternwheeler boat from Marietta, Ohio, will come south to Huntington for a 10-day stay at Harris Riverfront Park from Thursday to Nov. 8.

The boat will host a number of events on the Ohio River during its visit.

Narrated sightseeing tours are scheduled from noon to 1:30 p.m. every day of the boat’s stay.

A Halloween Dance Cruise is scheduled for Friday followed by a Murder Mystery Dinner Theatre on Saturday.

For music lovers, the boat is scheduled to host a Symphony Dance Cruise Nov. 5 and Nov. 7 as well as an Oldies Dance Cruise Nov. 6.

Heather Morgan, manager of the Valley Gem tours, said these events will provide a unique experience for locals.

“The fact that we do everything out on the river makes it unique,” Morgan said. “Nothing is done while docked, you’re out on the river experiencing everything. Something we also pride ourselves on greatly is the event quality. Not only do you have great food with great entertainment. You’re getting so much in one setting.”

The 26-year-old boat was built by the Sands family in 1989 and is currently owned and operated by Captain J.J. Sands, son of original owners Captain James E. and Peggy Sands. The current Valley Gem is the second sternwheeler boat with that name, succeeding the original Valley Gem that was put into operation in 1973.

Morgan said the Valley Gem’s trip, which has been in the works for years, is the first step in a potentially longer stay in Huntington

“The city approached us about three years ago and asked us a lot of questions. They were trying to expand the riverfront,” Morgan said. “Over the course of the last three years, we’ve talked on and off trying to figure out a way to bring the vessel down to Huntington permanently. This is kind of a first step to feel out the market and see if the public really wants us there.”

Huntington Mayor Steve Williams is set to be at Harris Riverfront Park Thursday along with Tyson Compton, Cabell-Huntington Convention & Visitors Bureau president and Kevin Brady, Greater Huntington Parks & Recreation executive director, to officially welcome the Valley Gem and its crew.

Morgan said she and others hope this visit is well received.

“It’s very important that we find out if the public is interested and does want us to be there,” Morgan said. “We hope that this will be a successful trip and repeat it in the future. But the future of us being there depends on how well we’re received during this trip.”

Rob Engle can be contacted at [email protected]