by Mitchell Kirk Pharos-Tribune
---- — MONTICELLO — A layer or two of cardboard will be the only thing to keep rowers dry and afloat at a boat race hosted by the Rotary Club of Monticello on the Tippecanoe River Saturday.
“If they can survive, the boats can race in about four or five races,” said Lee Kreul, president of the rotary club.
“If they survive,” he repeated with a chuckle.
This is the first year the Rotary Club of Monticello is holding its Cardboard Boat Regatta, an event where area businesses, organizations, friends and families will bring homemade cardboard boats to the Tippecanoe River to race and raise money for Monticello parks.
Kreul said there will be about 12 to 15 participants in the event who will race in divisions based on age. The race will be 100 yards long, with competitors rowing 50 yards to a point before turning around and heading back.
“We tossed around several ideas when designing the course and decided to create a course based on chaos rather than speed,” Kreul said. “I don’t know whether some boats will leak and go down or tip over.”
This chaos Kreul desires shouldn’t get too out of hand, he continued, as the Monticello Police Department water rescue team will be standing by at the race. Participants are also required to wear life jackets and shoes.
The boats also have to maintain a standard of ecological friendliness, Kreul said, adding that only water soluble glues, paints and caulks can be used in the construction of the crafts.
Kreul seemed hopeful the crafts of the winners would be able to make it through multiple races.
“We’ll see more of the same boats hopefully,” he said.
Contestants may find some relief in knowing that at least their paddles don’t have to be made out of cardboard.
Trophies will be given for first, second and third places in each age category. A “Grand Race Off” for the winners of each division will be the final race of the day. Awards will also be given for best boat construction, most unique design and team spirit.
But the real winners are Monticello’s Parks, Kreul said. The event is to raise money to help beautify them.
“We’ve worked with the Rotary Club for years and they’ve just been fantastic to work with as far as developing our parks system,” said Monticello Parks Superintendent Mitchell Billue.
Billue said one of the projects the parks department plans to pursue in the next year is a nature park that will include a waterfall and plants that will attract hummingbirds and butterflies.
Kreul constructed his own boat out of two refrigerator boxes with the aid of a book appropriately titled “How to Make a Cardboard Boat.” Describing it as having the appearance of a one-person kayak, he painted it black and gold and dubbed it “Papermakers Special” in homage to Purdue University.
“It takes a few hours to do it,” he said. “Always waiting for glue to dry, paint to dry.”
Come race day, Kreul said his strategy is to win with speed. After all, the logo of the team his craft pays tribute to is a locomotive blazing down a track.
“I think it will be safe and there will be a lot of interest for people not only in the race but people watching from the shore,” Kreul said.
Dan Oldenkamp, a Rotary member and assistant scoutmaster for Boy Scout Troop 154 in Monticello, assisted his scouts with a craft they plan to enter in the race on Saturday.
Finding plans on the internet, he and the scouts have spent several nights in his garage folding, shaping and gluing two refrigerator boxes into their vessel, reinforcing it with boxes from a grocery store and “lots of duct tape,” Oldenkamp said.
The result is a rectangular canoe fit for holding four scouts. However, Oldenkamp said they’re not going to take any chances — they’ll only have two scouts in the boat at a time.
“Me and the boys are having a great time with it,” he said. “It’s been one of those projects where we’re gathering every night in my garage and having a good time.”
While the boys are still in the process of coming up with a name for their boat, they chose shocking pink with fluorescent green stripes as the paint job, Oldenkamp continued.
“Their thought was if it sinks, they’ll be able to find it,” he said with a laugh.
Like Kreul, the scouts’ strategy Saturday will be to make it the 50 yards there and back as fast as they can.
“Our strategy is to win our heat, make it to finals and not drown,” Oldenkamp said.
The first race for this free event begins at 11:30 a.m. on the Tippecanoe River at Bluewater Beach Park on Bluewater Drive, Monticello. Refreshments will be available as well.
If you go: WHAT: Rotary Club of Monticello Cardboard Boat Regatta WHEN: 11:30 a.m. Saturday WHERE: Bluewater Beach Park, Bluewater Drive, Monticello