Focusing on Peoria's Spirit

Celebrating 20 Years
by Amy Groh
photography by Nellie Photography

Two decades ago, the Spirit of Peoria riverboat first paddled its way up the Illinois River to Peoria, and it has been a regional landmark ever since. Built in Paducah, Kentucky in 1988 by Walker Boat Yard, the $1.8 million vessel was commissioned by James Jumer for his riverfront Boatworks project. When the went up for sale in 1993, Bud and Alex Grieves stepped in so wouldn’t lose the boat to Louisville, Kentucky. The leased the boat from the City for three years, making the final purchase in 1996.


The Boat

• Propelled solely by stern-driven paddlewheel, which is made of fiberglass and wood, has 68 bucket boards, is 22 feet in diameter and powered by two Caterpillar 3412 diesel engines that turn 350kw generator sets

• Patriotic red, white and blue “floating wedding cake” design

• Air-powered calliope

• Steered by 7-foot maple wheel in pilot house engraved with “Spirit of Peoria” and “Jumer Boatworks”

• Many decorative pieces were purchased at auctions from much older steamboats, including the captain’s bell and a brass tube that serves as a telegraph from pilot house to captain’s quarters

• Three decks and a pilot’s house make a total of 160’ long; 40’ wide; 47.5’ high


The Trips

Themed Dinner Cruises

Overnight Excursions

Sightseeing Cruises

Private Charters

Historic Getaway to Starved Rock every week from May through October


The Crew

Captain Alex Grieves

Riverlorian/Professional Storyteller Brian “Fox” Ellis

World-Class Piano Player Bev Wolf

Musician/Storyteller Barry Cloyd


20th Anniversary

The Spirit of Peoria celebrated its 20th anniversary by sailing up from south of Peoria and docking at Peoria’s Riverfront for a ribbon cutting to kick off Steamboat Days on June 12th. Captain Alex Grieves invites young and old alike to “step back in time with us for an experience right out of history.” a&s