Rivers of Life Center are working to produce Harmony on the Water seeking to show off the features of the Canby region

COURTESY PHOTO - The Willamette QueenHow often are the residents of the Canby and Salem areas aware of Mother Nature's beautiful work along the Willamette and Molalla River areas? Not too much was the answer as people busily move day-to-day along their lives.

The Rivers of Life Center wants to change that by taking passengers on what a historic trip through the Willamette Valley a 14-mile round trip on the Willamette Queen, a sternwheeler. The trip includes dinner, music and history of the area. A Sept. 5 a cruise showed Canby Mayor Brian Hodson and Salem Mayor Chuck Bennett that beautiful valley.COURTESY PHOTO - Showing off their awards, from the left are Rivers of Life Center President Jerry Herrmann, history interpreter Joshua Beckham, Oregon SenateAires president Bob Cox, Salem Mayor Chuck Bennett, Golden Glow winners John Borden and history re-enactor Larry McIntyre and Canby Mayor Brian Hodson.

This was this year's first of a six-series of cruises between Salem and Canby that "seeks to give residents and visitors to the area a taste of what riverboat life was back in the 1850s to the 1890s," says Jerry Herrmann, president of the Rivers of Life Center. This is also the second year the cruises are offered.

On this cruise Hodson shared his dreams for Canby while Bennett discussed his support of tourism and his vision of his community to re-establish a connection with the Willamette River at new riverfront park facilities. Salem has a pedestrian bridge that crosses to Minto Brown Park featuring geography similar to Canby's.

Canby officials hope to bring tourists to their unique city, and are discussing plans to build a new hotel in the area to show the tourists the features and events the city has to offer. Hodson pointed out Canby's "evolving downtown and new residential communities whose officials are showing a new interest in establishing new park and natural space programs fit beautifully as we saw and heard from Mayor Bennet of Salem, now Oregon's second largest city."

The riverboat trip starts with on-shore program for everyone, taking the trip or not. On-board there are historical re-enactors, the Oregon SenateAires Barbershop Chorus and Quartets. The ship holds 100 passengers and offers valley food, wines and cuisine in a dinner/buffet style.

Hodson shared his vision for the riverside community and his dreams of Canby as a destination site for the program. The boat trip would take in sites along the river showing off the communities above and below Willamette Falls. Herrmann hopes to see a journey from Canby's Molalla River State Park to Burnert Landing and back.

During the trip the two mayors handed out Golden Glow awards, an Oregon first. These honored citizens and youth of Canby and others for their pioneer spirit. They also told the story of Canby resident John Borden, who worked closely with then Gov. Tom McCall in the early 1970s. Borden worked with his daughter Jennifer asking her to reach out to all Oregon school children for a 10 cent donation to re-gild the Man on top of the Capital allowing him to glow. Those children donated $40,000 in 10 cent contributions to make it possible for the state to re-gild the statue every decade.

Others to receive the Golden Glow award included Joshua Beckham, a 22-year old Canby resident who has researched and presents history on the cruises. Beckham's thorough research allows the young man to establish the role of General Canby and railroad magnate Ben Holiday, who launched the major valley commercial center in the 1860s, namely Canby. Another re-enactor, West Lynn's Larry McIntyre also received an award. He plays Robert Moore, who recites the history of the Willamette Valley from Willamette Falls to Salem and beyond.

The river event is "a community building effort that links our important capital with commercial heritage centers of the 1850s, such as Canby. It's a winning effort that we are honored to be a part of and we need to see it expand along our Willamette River.

Reservations currently are available for a Sept. 20 river cruise starting at 5:30 p.m. with history about the shores traveled and heritage presentations among the dinner and entertainment. It is sponsored by Kiwanis Clubs, River of Life Center and the Oregon SenateAires. For more information visist their Facebook page, Rivers of Life Center, or call 503-371-1103.

The Rivers of Life Center is a Christina non-profit center that works with youth. They are trained to be tour guides aiding the riverboat passengers.

Carol Rosen
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