Queen II

Queen II hosts several special rides around the lake

The Iowa Great Lakes are full of history. Fascinating stories abound from every corner and a series of special cruises on the Queen II seeks to highlight a variety of them this summer.

The Legends Series got underway June 19 when Jim Koenig and Lloyd Cunningham enthralled the audience with “Miss Thriller and the 30 Boat- Two Boats, Two Wrecks, Many Tales.” They led everyone back through time as the Queen II ferried them to the specific spots on West Lake Okoboji where those incidents unfolded.

The process of putting together The Legends Series began in March as several people worked on the process of updating the current narration on the Queen II by Paul Hedberg while also unearthing and modernizing an original taped narration by the late Captain Steve Kennedy.

During this process, local resident Mary Dreier, founder of the “Soul of the Lakes” website and blog, pushed for the idea of hosting specialty cruises highlighting some of the history and stories around the lake.

“I’ve got to give her full credit. She’s been awesome,” said Casey Schmidt, events manager at Arnolds Park Amusement Park. “Her fascination with the area history and legacy — she’s been great with this.”

The excitement for the first installment resulted in 97 riders taking the Wednesday night cruise.

“We haven’t had that many for a week night cruise all season,” Schmidt said. “People were even talking about a few days later during Farmers Market in the Park and were excited about the next ones coming up in July.”

July 10, to be exact, is the next adventure in the The Legends Series and will feature Jonathan Reed and the “Lost Resorts of the Iowa Great Lakes.”

“Reed is a great speaker, historian, author and just a genuinely nice guy. This will be a great one and will bring up the nostalgia for the Lakes area and lost resorts that don’t exist anymore. It’s a celebration of these places for so many people that remember them and their connection to the Lakes.”

The third ride in The Legends Series belongs to Jane Shuttleworth, outreach and education coordinator at Lakeside Laboratory, who will present “A Naturalist’s View of the Lakes” on Wednesday, July 24.

“This one will be more on the education side and very unique. She will be talking about how the lakes were formed, the points and depths and why it is the way it is,” Schmidt said.

Rounding out the series on Aug. 7 will be Tom Tourville and Rebecca Peters presenting “Remembering Okoboji’s Roof Garden Ballroom.”

“This one will be really cool too remembering the ballrooms. They’ll talk about the old and new versions of the Roof Garden and there is also a concert that night in the new Roof Garden, so we many start that cruise earlier so we can be back in time for that too,” Schmidt said.

That reinvigorated Steve Kennedy narration is also getting its very own cruise nights on July 15, July 22, and Aug. 5.

The whopping 90-minute narration will also feature vintage photos of the locations highlighted.

“It’s just so good there was nothing we could cut so the Queen will just go a little slower,” Schmidt said. “I listened to the narration in my office and time just flew by as I imagined all those places on the lake. It’s a great narration, a great voice and you hear his excitement and can’t help but feel the same.”

Also on the specialty cruise schedule are Sunset Melodies Cruises on July 7, July 28, and Aug. 11 featuring the live music of Tammy Hamlin.

“We’re always trying to do different things to bring people in and get involved at the park, and there are a whole bunch of people who love the Queen more than anything else,” Schmidt said.