'Sternwheeler Days' draws festival crowds to river at Cascade Locks

The weather hovered around 100 degrees in Cascade Locks on Saturday, drawing Sternwheeler Days crowds aboard the paddlewheel replica.

Although trade for hot food vendors was down that day, about 450 riders boarded the vessel to enjoy the cooling breeze off the Columbia River.

“It was a beautiful day and I think everyone who attended had a ball,” said Port of Cascade Locks Director Chuck Daughtry.

Sternwheeler Captain Randy Holmstrom dropped his normally stoic demeanor to join the festivities on land also. His rendition of “Row Your Boat” on the kazoo kept the “Lawn Chair Brigade” of port employees in formation during Saturday’s parade through downtown streets.

Robert Willoughby, city manager, said the 28th annual activities brought numerous visitors to the rural community and generated profits for local businesses.

“It certainly called attention to Cascade Locks and its history. It’s really an important part of our economy to have events like this one,” Willoughby said.

The Columbia Gorge Lions Club nominated Phil Redlock, chair of the festival, and his wife, Ada, to serve as Grand Marshals. The Redlocks, longtime Lions members, spend about six months each year making arrangements for the three days of entertainment.

“It was very nice of the Lions to recommend us but I think there are other people around more worthy,” said Phil, who was both honored and embarrassed by the tribute to his efforts.

He is concerned about the future of Sternwheeler Days since the majority of the Lion’s 35 club members are now well into their retirement years. Redlock said the club is seeking to enlist younger members and will meet with city and port officials to discuss sharing more responsibilities.

“We’re not the spring chickens we were 10 years ago,” he said.

Daughtry and Willoughby said the two public agencies are very grateful for the dedication of the Lions and will assist the club in any way they can.

“It’s a big event for this community and we appreciate the Lions and all the work they do to make this happen,” Daughtry said.

“As important as tourism is to us, the job the Lions are doing is pretty critical and we’re hoping to work with the port and come up with a plan to give them some help,” said Willoughby.

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