An annual rite of spring in Harrisburg is slated to take place on Wednesday, as the Pride of the Susquehanna Riverboat launches for its 31st season.
The riverboat typically leaves dry dock in April, but the launch was delayed due to continuing high water on the Susquehanna River, said Jason Meckes, executive director of the Harrisburg Area Riverboat Society.
“We were a little bit extra cautious after last year,” Meckes said today. “But now we an see that the water levels have tapered off.”
According to the National Weather Service, the water level at Harrisburg should be about 6-feet in depth on Wednesday, far below the 8 to 9 feet that begins to cause problems for riverboat operations.
Last year, the Pride lost about one-third of its sailing days due to high water, which both flooded its docking area and made sailing conditions dangerous.
With so much lost revenue, Riverboat Society members questioned whether they could continue to operate. Therefore, they repeatedly appealed for financial support and, according to Meckes, the community responded, donating nearly $90,000 to ensure that the Pride would continue to sail.
“People stepped up to the plate and made a difference,” he said. “A lot of people love this riverboat and wanted it to return. It means a lot to a lot of people.”
That level of giving was far above average, as one-time donations ordinarily range from $16,000 to $20,000 a year, he said.
Meckes hopes for a more normal season this year, with a minimum of lost sailing days.
Dinner cruises and special events begin this weekend, with daily public sightseeing cruises starting over Memorial Day weekend. Right now, some 400 cruises are planned for the season, Meckes said, and advanced bookings already have exceeded last year’s level.
In addition, the Riverboat Society is working to expand its educational outreach, with hundreds of students from the Harrisburg school district signed up for free River School educational voyages, Meckes said.
“All indications are that it’ll be a heckuva year,” he said.
The Pride of the Susquehanna is located on City Island, Harrisburg. For more information, call 717-234-6500 or visit http://harrisburgriverboat.com.