PARKERSBURG - Hundreds of locals and tourists visited Blennerhassett Island Historical State Park during the Labor Day holiday weekend, officials said.
"This weekend was really busy," said Matt Baker, assistant park superintendent. "We had more than 700 visitors on Saturday and Sunday and Monday had a couple hundred more people come to the island."
The overcast skies and threatening rain on Monday did not keep people from boarding the Island Belle sternwheeler to tour the island and the historic buildings.
Photos by Jolene Craig
Wesley Roxby, 4, and Kendra Roxby, 2, of Blair, Ohio, steer the sternwheeler Island Belle on Labor Day.
"My fiancee and I decided to come here on a day trip and brought her daughter, Caleigh Grant, who likes all things historical," said Eric Lilly, of Hurricane, W.Va.
Lilly and his fiancee, Amy Grant, said the island was a nice place to spend one of the last of the summer days and Caleigh Grant, 10, said she liked learning how the Blennerhassetts lived.
"I liked the carriage ride and hearing the stories of the history," Caleigh Grant said.
Erin and Ben Roxby packed the car and their two children, Wesley, 4, and Kendra, 2, and drove from their home in Blair, Ohio, near Wheeling to see the island and Blennerhassett Mansion.
"I was here 25 years ago and thought it would be a good thing for us to do with our holiday," Erin Roxby said. "I didn't care about the rainy forecast - we have our rain gear and we're excited about the day."
Island Belle Captain Harry Batten gave young children a chance to steer the sternwheeler on the pleasure cruise to the island and said this holiday weekend was similar to those in the past.
"This was an excellent weekend," Batten said. "We had a busy Saturday and Sunday and Monday was more full than I expected because (Labor Day) is usually slower because people are on their way home."
Baker said one of the reasons for the busy weekend was the Stillwell 4-H Club's annual Apple Butter Weekend Saturday and Sunday.
"A lot of people came over to watch the apple butter being made and buy fresh jars," Baker said. "While they were here, some had picnics and toured the mansion."
While this past weekend was busy for the island and its volunteers, the entire 2009 summer season has been slightly more quiet than summers past, Baker said.
"The numbers aren't in, yet, but the numbers appear to be down slightly from last year," Baker said. "Most of it seems to be because we didn't get as many charter buses this year as we normally do."
Baker said he does not know why there were not as many charter tour buses coming to the island this year, but what he does know is that several planned tours had to cancel because they were not able to get enough passengers to justify the trip.
"All I know is that the numbers are down and I expect that does have to do with the economy," he said. "Everything has been affected by the economic situation and we are feeling the strain."
The Blennerhassett Island Historical State Park will continue hosting events through October, including the Mansion by Candlelight.