Lowell works to keep tradition afloat amidst closure of showboat

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LOWELL, Mich. — An anchor in the Lowell community for 85 years is now closed. The city decided on Wednesday to close its fifth version of the Lowell Showboat over safety concerns.

24 Hour News 8 looked at its long history and impact in the community.

Onboard it was a night full of dazzling entertainment. The crowds that flocked to watch the acts and performances that boasted some of the most influential names in show business.

“Dinah Shore, Pearl Bailey, Vic Hyde, probably the most famous one that everyone would recognize the name of would be Louis Armstrong,” Lowell Area Historical Museum Executive Director Lisa Plank said.

Gerald R. Ford even visited when he was vice president.

The first show attracted more than 5,000 people in Lowell to its unique stage in 1932, since then Plank says it’s evolved.

“Professional acts, amateur acts, local acts all involved, high school bands used to play on the prow of the boat as it came up and down the river to start the show,” Plank said.

There were even weddings and most recently a summer concert series.

“It really became a part of the community of Lowell,” Plank said.

After 85 years of history, the question is what to do next?

The city is now debating either to renovate the current Robert E. Lee or to completely rebuild the showboat.

“In the current state that it is it’s just not safe for people for people to be on it anymore,” Lowell City Manager Mike Burns said.

Wednesday marked Robert E. Lee’s first day out of commission sitting in the Flat River still with holiday decorations. The decision to close it was based on safety concerns and whether it’s structurally sound.

“We’ve had analysis done and our insurance carrier no longer wants us to utilize the boat,” Burns said.

But the city won’t let its tradition sink as it deliberates options for the “Showboat City.”

A meeting about the future of the Lowell Showboat is scheduled for 7 p.m. on Jan. 19 at Lowell City Hall.

The city is currently working on a request with the Department of Environmental Quality to figure out how to move it.

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