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New tour boat headed for Canalside

A larger tour vessel is coming to Canalside.

Buffalo River History Tours is expected to receive a 149-seat tour boat in mid-August, tripling its current capacity.

The larger boat will be better able to accommodate bus tours that come to Buffalo, according to Rich Hilliman, who owns the tour company with his father, Rick Hilliman.

“Buffalo is seeing a larger increase in tour groups coming to check out Buffalo, which is wonderful,” Hilliman said.

The larger boat also will allow the company to offer evening cocktail cruises, weddings, corporate charters, family reunions and more.

Hilliman said summer attendance has averaged 150 people daily, split fairly evenly between locals and out-of-towners, he said.

The company, now in its fifth season, offers three, 90-minute river tours a day with narration, and one two-hour tour that stops at Silo City for a tour of the grain elevators there.

The Harbor Queen, 63 feet long and 24 feet wide, will have two decks, with the upper deck wide open for viewing. There will be live music on Saturday nights. The fiberglass boat was made in Florida and will soon set sail for Buffalo, coming in through the Erie Canal.

The father-son team also owns Queen City Bike Ferry.

Attendance on the ferry this summer has been less than some expected, Hellman said.

“It’s up, but not by a ton,” Hilliman said. “I think there was some novelty last year to it.”

Erie Canal Harbor Development Corp. the state agency that oversees Canalside, was prepared to employ a second boat this summer, but it hasn’t been necessary, Hilliman said.

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