Tall Stacks, formally known as the Tall Stacks Music, Arts, and Heritage Festival, was a festival held every three or four years in the Cincinnati, Ohio area, which celebrated the city's heritage of the riverboat. The sixth (and, to date final) edition was held on October 4 through October 8, 2006. The festival typically featured a number of vintage and replica steamboats from across the eastern United States, which docked along the Ohio River shoreline in Cincinnati and across the river in Covington and Newport, Kentucky.
The Belle of Louisville
docks next to the Natchez
in Cincinnati for Tall Stacks.
After the 2009 event was cancelled a festival was tentatively scheduled for 2010, but was not held due to the poor economy and lack of corporate sponsors. Organizers later set a date of October 3-7, 2012, which was subsequently also cancelled.
The first Tall Stacks festival was held in October 1988 as a part of Cincinnati's bicentennial celebration. Fourteen riverboats made appearances in the three-day festival, which included tours of the boats, cruises, and races between rivals Delta Queen and Belle of Louisville--a renewal of their annual race during the Kentucky Derby Festival in Louisville, Kentucky. More than 700,000 people attended.
- 1992, when the event expanded to four days. Attendance increased to 800,000, which was the largest attendance for any event in Cincinnati history to date.
- 1995, when the schedule was moved up a year to prevent a near-conflict with the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta, Georgia. The event expanded to five days and 19 riverboats. The Kentucky cities added a Civil War re-enactment to the festivities, and attendance increased again to 850,000, a new record.
- 1999, though attendance was down, Tall Stacks '99 drew 660,000 and was named the nation's top tourism event by the American Bus Association. Nineteen riverboats again traveled to the festival.
Numerous river boats along the Ohio River
during the 2006 festival.
- 2003, when the festival took on its most recent formal name and drew a record 900,000 visitors. "Theme cruises" were an added attraction, such as wine tasting cruises, Cincinnati Zoo cruises, and more. Musical acts included Creedence Clearwater Revisited, Lucinda Williams, Steve Earle, Emmylou Harris, Shawn Colvin, The Jayhawks, Delbert McClinton, John Hammond, Nickel Creek, B. B. King, Los Lobos, Ricky Skaggs, Mary Chapin Carpenter, and more than 150 other national, regional, and local bands.
- 2006, when 17 riverboats took part in the festival, including the Delta Queen, Belle of Louisville, General Jackson, Natchez, Mississippi Queen, and Majestic. On the Newport, Kentucky side of the river at the site of the Newport Barracks, a series of American Civil War displays were established, which taught about military life during this period. The US Army Corps of Engineers had displays about the river.
- 2009, Event was cancelled due to lack of sponsorship and has not been held since.