A publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

The untold story behind the Delta Queen painting on display at the Boone County Main Library

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By Jennifer Cheek
Special to the NKyTribune

Boone County Public Library is home to a Delta Queen picture, painted by Mark Mains, that holds a great story.  Mark Mains is a graduate of Boone County High School, class of 1978 following Ockerman Middle School and Florence Elementary.

This Delta Queen picture, painted by Boone County artist Mark Mains, can be viewed at the Main Branch in Burlington

In 1976, Mains’ foster parents had a camp at River Ridge Park along the Ohio River just down the road from Rabbit Hash.

“Back then it wasn’t a big tourist place, or a biker destination, just a nice quiet general store.  We used to go down there all the time.  My favorite part of the general store was sitting around listening to all the old guys tell fishing stories and adventures of the Ohio River, past floods, etc.”

Mains and his Mom made many trips to the general store, but one particular trip sticks in his mind during the summer of 1976.

“I was sitting on one of those long benches, waiting for my mom to finish her shopping or gawking!  I looked under the bench, that’s what kids do.  I found a copy of Life Magazine from 1956.  In the magazine was an article and a photo of the river boat Delta Queen.  I showed it to my mom, she loved it!  The old man at the store said I could have the magazine. I was a curious kid, but have no idea why I looked under that old bench.”

Mains took the picture to his art class at Boone County High School where he was a student at the time.  He started painting the picture during his junior year and finished in time for Mother’s Day 1978 during his senior year.

“It was a gift for my beloved foster mother, Blanch Waite.  She loved it.  Mr. Terry Johnson was the art teacher then, I got an A for the project, also won the art award senior year and an art scholarship.”

Mains has been a professional cartoonist for 45 years. He finds great adventure in his travels while drawing people and making them laugh.

His Delta Queen picture is a great memory from that summer in Boone County when he camped at River Ridge Park with his foster parents and hung at the Rabbit Hash General Store.  Mains had prints made twice of his Delta Queen picture and sold out both times.  The original hung in Blanch Waite’s home until her death in 2001.

“I got the painting back, tried to give it to my children, they had no interest in it. I figured the people of Boone County would appreciate it for a lot longer than I would live…so I donated it to the library.

His Delta Queen picture can be found at Boone County Main Library hanging on the wall in the Local History section.

Jennifer Cheek is the Public Relations Specialist at Boone County Public Library. A graduate from the College of Mount St. Joseph focusing on English and Communications, she previously worked in Advertising/Media Buying and still continues as a freelancer.

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