Thousands of people turned out Saturday to watch a unique gathering of 14 old-time riverboats on the Ohio River in commemoration of Cincinnati's bicentennial.

"Being on the river on an Indian Summer day, what could be better?" said Sue Bourke, aboard the "Southern Belle." Other riverboats like the "Delta Queen," "Belle of Louisville" and the "River Queen" participated in the weekend-long celebration of "Tall Stacks," named for the smokestacks atop the steamers and sternwheelers.The 14 passenger-carrying riverboats all docked at the Cincinnati shoreline and the gleaming white vessels made a majestic portrait against a soft blue autumn sky.

While thousands of visitors toured the boats at dockside, hundreds of others purchased tickets for short cruises.

Betty Mohring, 65, said the trip reminded her of when she used to regularly ride a riverboat shuttle to an amusement park. She recalled "sparking" on the top deck.

"You know - necking, hollyhocking, smooching," she said.

Many other people were getting their first look at such boats.

"This is thrilling," said Norma Wilson. "I want to come back. I want to be here for the tricentennial."

As a backdrop to the boats, the riverfront was filled with roving entertainers and actors dressed in costumes from a century ago, as bicentennial celebration organizers tried to show visitors what a bustling shoreline looked like a century ago.

"It's a beautiful and colorful part of America's history," said Sara Backman, spokeswoman for the Cincinnati Bicentennial Commission. "It's a celebration of river development in the United States."

The 14 boats participating were the "Delta Queen" of Cincinnati, the "President" of St. Louis, the "Belle of Louisville," the "Island Queen" of Memphis, the "West Virginia Belle" of Huntington, W. Va., the "Southern Belle" of Chattanooga, Tenn., the "Bonnie Belle" of Evansville, Ind., the "Mark Twain" of Hannibal, Mo., "The Queen" of Cincinnati, the "Becky Thatcher" of Cincinnati, the "Spirit of Cincinnati," the "P.A. Denny" of Huntington, W. Va., the "River Queen" of Knoxville, Tenn., and the "Queen City Clipper" of Cincinnati.