Ben Larson and Brock Willroth paddle their cardboard creation, the SS B&B, across the Prentis Plunge swimming pool during the second annual 2019 Community Cardboard Boat Regatta.

There’s wasn’t much more that participants of the second annual Community Cardboard Boat Regatta, held Saturday, Aug. 17 at Prentis Plunge could have asked for – except for a technical difficulty that forced the plunge to close earlier than planned and kept a few boats from participating.

All in all, it was a successful event. A couple boats went down in the water instead of across the pool, but most of the kids that paddled and piloted their stiff paper creations across the pool actually made it to the finish line.

The work for Saturday evening’s race began nearly a week earlier, when several participants were able to design their boats and find the needed materials to build them at the Edith B. Siegrist Vermillion Public Library.

“We had a number of families again show up at the library to build and there were a couple boats that were built off-site and then showed up here today,” said Sandra Kern Mollman, a volunteer who helped organize the regatta. “We just did it again this year because a number of people were asking about it and were curious about if we were going to do it again.

“I think it’s a really great end-of-summer happening,” she said.

Many of the regatta participants began building their boats at the library on Monday, Aug. 12.

“Our last build was today (Aug. 17) from 1 to 3 p.m., so we had five days and one evening – Thursday evening, from 5 to 7 p.m.,” Mollman said.

The race wouldn’t have stayed afloat without cardboard and the University of South Dakota and a cabinet shop in Tea helped the young shipbuilders by providing a plentiful supply.

“The tape and scissors and markers and all of that were supplied by the library and that was really great,” she said.

Kids have been the participants in the two years these unique races have been held. Next year, Mollman hopes the event attracts some “big kids.”

“We would love next year to have an adult section of racers because we definitely have plenty of cardboard,” she said. “You can get incredibly creative … really the sky is the limit. Wherever Vermillion wants to take it; whoever wants to create can bring it in and race. It would be great, maybe in future years, to have a couple bars race against each other or maybe a couple churches race against each other … it can be as big as the community wants to make it.

“Similarly, it can be as small and simple as they want to have it and I think this year was a great example of that,” Mollman said. “It was really simple and straightforward. Many of the boats this year were made off a template. We used similar styles so they were pretty successful.”

There were no losers Saturday -- even the boats that seemed to dissolve shortly after being launched won something. Awards were given for the “best sink,” the “least fastest boat that finished,” the “most creative,” the “best design” and the “most sturdy.”

The regatta is truly a community event -- there’s no sponsoring business; instead it relies on volunteers.

“It’s just people deciding to come together and turning into what they want it to be,” Mollman said. “What we’re getting out of it is the joy of the activity. That’s what we’re all racing together for.”


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