The Huntington Waterways Association will have its third annual National Maritime Days Celebration in Huntington this weekend.

This year’s event was originally scheduled for May, but high-water levels forced the organization to reschedule for Labor Day weekend.

Activities will begin at 10 a.m. Friday at the Harris Riverfront Park although a formal opening ceremony won’t be until 10 a.m. Saturday.

“It is just an attempt to communicate to the local region the value of commercial navigation and how important it is to all local citizens whether they know it or not,” said Waterways Association President Fred Nyhuis.

“Its an opportunity to see what goes on on the river every day,” he said. “A lot of people are dependent upon the river that don’t even know it, because of employment or businesses that are based either directly or indirectly on the river.”

David Smith, past president of the Waterways association and current legislative committee chairman, said the organization began holding the event as a means “to give the public a little better idea of what we do and how we do it.”

He said the idea is to allow the public to get an up close look at some of the river vessels that pass by their homes each day on the river and “to give them an idea what it is like to live and work on one.

“Most people view them from a bridge,” Nyhuis said, “but they’ll be able to see it first hand.”

Included in the weekend will be tours of commercial tow boats and rivermen demonstration and contests.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will also have displays and demonstrations including a navigational lock display.

Smith said his company, Gate City River Transportation, will be christening its newest boat at noon Saturday. Other river businesses, groups and agencies will also have a presence, he said.

Ashland native Robert L. Gray, 90, will be recognized for his contribution to the towing industry. He will be presented with a Maritime Impact award for his prominent and pioneering role in furthering river navigation.

The long-term goal of the event, Nyhuis said, is to better market the industry and its capabilities as well as educate perspective employees about the job opportunities, which would in turn lead to companies hiring more individuals from the local region.

CARRIE KIRSCHNER can be reached at or (606) 326-2653.

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