In the summer of 2004, La Crosse was a host city to the ‘Grand Excursion,’ a river voyage involving six cruise boats, recreating a steamboat trip made by President Millard Fillmore 150 years earlier. The visiting boats had names like ‘The Spirit of Peoria,’ and the ‘Celebration Belle.’ Wisconsin Governor Jim Doyle and Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty presided over a riverboat race at the start of Riverfest. The ‘Harriet Bishop’ from Minnesota vs. the ‘La Crosse Queen’…and the race was declared a tie.
UW-L recognized the Grand Excursion by doing a Summerstage production of the musical ‘Big River,’ based on ‘Huckleberry Finn’ with music by Roger Miller. It was the 25th year of the Summerstage series of summer shows at the Toland Theater.
On TV that summer, you could watch Larry King and Paula Zahn on CNN. MSNBC featured Keith Olbermann, Deborah Norville, and Joe Scarborough. Fox News had Bill O’Reilly, Sean Hannity, and Greta Van Susteren. TV talkers in 2004, yesterday in La Crosse.