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Staying Afloat

The Dixie Sternwheeler Excursion Boat Remains a Popular North Webster Fixture

Writer / Matt Keating
Photography Provided

Dixie SternwheelerKarilyn Metcalf, president of Dixie Sternwheeler, Inc., is hopeful the North Webster-based Dixie will sail again this summer.

“The Dixie tours the entire area of Webster Lake,” Metcalf says. “Our tours were shut down during the entire 2020 season, but we hope to run again in 2021.”

Metcalf is hopeful the Dixie will also be able to serve private charter tours.

“In order to book a private charter, I tell people to just call me at 574-834-2385, and we can arrange a time when the Dixie is not busy with regular cruises,” Metcalf says.

Metcalf is also optimistic about the usual roster of summer events.

“We always celebrate the Dixie’s birthday with special cruises in July,” Metcalf says. “We do weddings, anniversaries and any other special occasions that are brought to us. We do extra cruises during Dixie Days in North Webster, and we have a fireworks cruise. We are willing to accommodate other special occasions as they are brought to us.”

Metcalf says many people who missed out last year have expressed interest in riding on the Dixie again.

Dixie Sternwheeler“We are in the process of figuring out the best way to deal with it for 2021,” she says. “If we can find that out, we can run again.”

Metcalf adds that the North Webster community has been overwhelmingly supportive during the pandemic.

“The community knows that the Dixie organization puts the health and safety of its passengers first,” she says. “We will not run the boat until we can put in place a safe way for them to ride the Dixie.”

Metcalf says North Webster residents, people from around the state and Midwest, and supporters from other states across the U.S. have kept the Dixie afloat.

“When I’m on an airplane for a trip and I tell someone I’m from North Webster, they automatically bring up the Dixie,” Metcalf says. “That makes me feel great. It’s been that way for a long time. The Dixie was built in 1929, and is Indiana’s oldest sternwheel excursion boat. The Dixie started with a young packet steamboat pilot, Joseph Breeck, who spent a lot of summers with his family at Webster Lake. Joseph eventually built three boats during the 1920s. Breeck built the very first Dixie in 1914. It was eventually replaced by the present Dixie in 1929. It’s still the one used today.”

Metcalf, a former music teacher at North Webster Elementary School for 38 years, says the special memories she has of the Dixie always revolve around the many families that have visited over the years.

“Every year seems new and different,” she says. “The history of the Dixie is filled with people who keep coming back. That’s the history that is important to me. Many families have told me they make it an annual tradition to take a ride on the Dixie. That makes me feel great. We really try to make it affordable fun for people.”

Metcalf notes that the prices for refreshments have remained the same for many years.

Dixie Sternwheeler“Our famous delicious popcorn is still $1, and our drinks are still $1,” Metcalf says. “You can’t beat that. We keep things affordable. We also have a historical book about the Dixie that we sell. A lot of people have told us they really enjoy that. People who come into North Webster to take a ride on the Dixie stick around and eat at the restaurants, and spend money at the shops. It’s a great tradition.”

During the typical season, the boat runs at 6:30 p.m. and 8 p.m. Monday through Friday; 6 p.m., 7:30 p.m. and 9 p.m. Saturday; 2 p.m., 3:30 p.m., 5 p.m., 6:30 p.m. and 8 p.m. Sunday. Adjustments may be necessary depending on COVID restrictions.

To take a ride on the Dixie, located at 401 South Dixie Drive in North Webster, call 574-834-1080. You can also check out their website at ridethedixie.com.

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