It happens almost every day around 11 a.m. and again later in the afternoon. Visitors strolling the streets of the Vieux Carré stop dead in their tracks, cock their heads toward the river and wonder, “Where’s that strange music coming from?” The most curious among them follow the loud yet breathless sounds of the whistle to the Toulouse Street Wharf where they can then see bursts of steam erupting from the calliope on the Steamboat Natchez. Synchronized colored lights dance along with each note.
The steam calliope, a steam pipe organ, has been identified with steamboats since 1865. Even small calliopes can be very loud and can be heard for miles. It was once a signal to head for the river: A showboat was ‘a comin’. Now it fills the French Quarter and beyond with its melodious peals reminding visitors and locals that steamboats still ply the Mississippi. So grab a seat on a bench in Woldenberg Park and enjoy the free show.