Campus Lake to host the Great Cardboard Boat Regatta

By Clair Cowley, Staff Writer

The Great Cardboard Boat Regatta returns to Campus Lake this spring with SIU holding a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the grand opening of Becker Pavillion on April 28.

The races will start at one p.m.

The boat regatta is a race where adults and children make life-sized boats out of cardboard and sail them on campus lake.


Previously the Carbondale Evergreen Reservoir held the race while campus lake was under reconstruction by the university, Mary Kinsel, an organizer of the race said.

The closure of campus lake and having the event off campus have had an impact on awareness from students that are currently here Kinsel said. Many students had never heard about the boat regatta, and the idea of building boats out of cardboard was a hard for students to wrap their heads around she said. 

Kinsel said outreach to students about the boat regatta has been a challenge.

In January they started contacting local schools, churches and after-school programs as well to solidify advertising material, Kinsel said.

Kinsel said she coordinated with the Alumni Association and Jim Salmo, vice chancellor for development and alumni relations to have service-community related organizations participate in the regatta.

“When I spoke to him a year ago he mentioned that it would be a good idea if we could do something with the Becker Pavilion opening,” Kinsel said. “We touched base again in late fall, early January when it was going to be clear that Ralph Becker and his wife were able to come and do a ribbon cutting.”

Becker gave a $1 million dollar gift to renovate and expand the boathouse and pavilion on campus lake in 2016.


According to a university press release, the boathouse and boat dock buildings were built in 1958 and many of the existing materials, including structure and plumbing systems, are 54 to 55 years old.

In the race there are four classes split up by different competition categories, according to the press release.

Class one is for ages 14 and above with the method of using a paddle or an oar. Class two is for anyone who uses some type of mechanically assisted form to move Kinsel said.

“If the boat uses some sort of sail or they have a rudder, that would also be class two,” Kinsel said.

Class three is for instant boats.

“We have kits for the instant boat for the price of registration,” Kinsel said.

They have 20 kits available that have one seven-foot by eight-foot sheet of cardboard and a roll of plastic sheeting.

“They have from registration until race time to finish their instant boat,” Rachel Bolerjack, an assistant to Dr. Kinsel said.

Class four is for youth boats with sailors 13-years-old and below Kinsel said.

While on the water, Kinsel said everyone in the boat has to wear a life vest and appropriate shoes for being in the lake.

Student recreation center will have lifeguards and a safety boat out on the water because some boats go down and have to brought back to shore.

“We don’t let anybody get out there without proper safety,” Kinsel said.

Music and refreshments for the public will be at the regatta, along with tours into the interior of the classroom area, renovated restrooms and a boat check out spot Kinsel said.

“We’re also having inflatables for a little bit of a kids section and at the same time the science center is coming over to do a demonstration and have a little experiment,” Bolerjack said.  

At the race, there will also be tie-dyeing booths and caricatures that visitors can purchase.

“We expect to have not only current students but also for the ribbon cutting there’s going to be a lot of alumni parents,” Kinsel said. “They’ll also have some SIU bling out there to make it more festive.”  

The cost to register online for the 2018 regatta is $15 dollars in advance or $20 the day of the event.

Staff writer Clair Cowley can be reached at [email protected].

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