CARBONDALE — Intermittent rain may have delayed the start of the 46th annual Great Cardboard Boat Regatta at Campus Lake on Saturday, but not the spirit of competition.

The regatta featured boats of all sizes, shapes and themes built by SIU campus groups and community organizations. 

Students from Carbondale Community High School gave each other tips for keeping their boats dry before the regatta. Their teacher, Dallas Terry, was busy installing a mechanical paddle wheel and steering device to the boat he and his daughter, Kinzie, built.

Next to the CCHS group was a boat built by University Communications at SIUC. The boat was decorated with the Southern at 150 logo and theme, with lots of pictures of university events and people. This is the first time University Communications has participated in the event. The boat’s crew, Jaclyn Durcholz and Jessica Mann, were dressed in an Egyptian theme, complete with headdresses.

Rae Goldsmith, chief marketing and communications officer for the university, said the department wanted to do more than publicize the event. They wanted to participate this year.

Goldsmith joked that the “other” SIU-themed boat had used the Southern at 150 logo without permission. That boat was entered by Brad Dillard, director of Plant and Service Operations at SIUC, and PSO staff.

Stephen Follis said their boat took a month to build. Follis, Trevon Watts and Shawn Bond designed the ship.

He said the carpenters helped with construction. Sheet metal workers made folds in the cardboard. Other trades and departments helped, too.

We used 40 sheets of cardboard and five gallons of glue,” Follis said.

“It was a big team effort for a lot of people and departments. I’m looking forward to it,” Bond said.

Organizer Mary Kinsel, a faculty member in the department of chemistry, which sponsors the race, called it a favorite SIU tradition that is loved by generations.

“It is a challenge to conceive, design and build a boat out of cardboard boxes that’s going to survive a race,” Kinsel said.

One person at the event has been to every one of the 46 regattas, Larry Busch, an SIU art and design program emeritus, action chair and associate professor.

The event was started by Richard Archer as a project for his freshman design class in 1974.

“It’s copied worldwide and an estimated 3,000 times each year,” Busch said.

Busch recalled a conversation he had with Archer while picking up trophies that first year. He told Archer that people will want to watch the boats sink. They decided to give an award for the most spectacular sinking and call it the Titanic Award.

Each year, some of the boats try to win the race or survive the race. Others are built to earn the coveted Titanic Award. Busch remembers one boat that had pyrotechnics rigged to sink the boat. He set them off, but the boat still floated. He finally start jumping up and down in the center of the boat until he broke through and the boat sank.

“Building a paper boat is silly, but if you do it, you’ve done something.” Busch said.

While you can control the boat’s design, how many crew members it has and it’s color, there is one element that cannot be controlled.

“One does not control the weather,” Busch said.

Subscribe to Daily Headlines

* I understand and agree that registration on or use of this site constitutes agreement to its user agreement and privacy policy.


Marilyn Halstead is a reporter covering Williamson County.

Load comments