One of Niagara's most popular tourist attractions launched- not only its boats- but its past records away.
The Maid of the Mist broke its record of earliest launch in history, which was previously set last season. Beginning the initial launch Saturday morning, the new record will beat the 2016 season by just one day. Kevin Keenan, Spokesman for the Maid of the Mist, compared the record breaker to the average.
"The average opening date is May 8th. We've gone as late as Mother's Day within the last couple of years. But with these mild winters here, the launch date now has been moved up to very early in April," he said.
Ready to start the season, Keenan believes 2017 will be a good tourism year for the Maid of the Mist attraction, and is hoping to see similar results to last season.
"The earlier launch date certainly gives us more opportunity to welcome more guests to the Maid of the Mist," he said. "Last year we had a record season of 1.6 million guests who boarded the Maid of the Mist between April 2 and the first week in November. So based on those numbers- and the early start again this year- we would expect to have a really good year."
Many environmental factors, including the mild wintry weather that Western New York endured this season, have played into the decision to launch the season earlier than normal.
"We've got to wait for the ice to run down the Niagara River and clear the Niagara Falls and then run through the lower Niagara River. Once that happens, we can put the boats in the water," Keenan said. "But because we had a relatively mild winter, there was no ice so we were able to start the season earlier."
During the off-season, the vessels are removed from the water to be housed at the dry rock and maintenance shop for repairs and preparations for the upcoming season. The engines are thoroughly inspected , while proper safety procedures and devices- such as life jackets- are installed.
According to Keenan, the early launch date has not affected the maintenance schedule, so guests can expect nothing short of a safe journey.
"Our crews are very good at taking care of all their off season tasks. So it's a 5 month timeline that we have- between 5 and 6 months- and everything follows a very specific series of checks so it's all done with safety in mind, and everything will be ready when the boats launch on Saturday morning," Keenan said.