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Spirit Lake Cardboard Boat Regatta cruises on its inaugural run

by CRAIG NORTHRUP
Staff Writer | May 23, 2021 1:30 AM

SPIRIT LAKE - North Idaho might have a new tradition on its hands after the inaugural Cardboard Boat Regatta set sail Saturday in Spirit Lake.

Amid near-perfect weather conditions early Saturday afternoon, participants, supporters and onlookers lined the north shore Saturday to christen the Spirit Lake Area Chamber of Commerce’s first event of its kind, one that organizers hope will launch cardboard regattas in the years to come.

“We thought we’d try this out,” organizer and regatta emcee Marc Kroetch said. “If it goes well, great. The weather broke right at the beginning. It was really cold this morning. It was in the 40s.”

That mid-May chill left participants and their soggy bottoms with a little extra incentive to paddle their cardboard boats to shore. Broken into two classes and three categories, 10 total teams competed for the top times around the course: around the giant inflatible rubber duckie bobbing just off shore in the middle of the lake. Competitors also angled for the Spirit Award for best team spirit, the Friggin’ Awesome Award for overall look and design, and the coveted Titanic Award for most spectacular sinking.

“The Chamber’s doing this just to bring people out,” the Chamber’s Liz Krise said as she managed raffle tickets. “We already have people saying, ‘We’re going to sign up next year. We’re going to build this kind of boat or that kind of boat.’”

The Chamber’s plan worked: Well over 100 showed up to the shores of the Fireside Park to cheer on the two-person boats, visit vendor booths and buy raffle tickets. Fresh Air E-Bikes, a Spirit Lake Area Chamber member, donated an inflatable stand-up paddleboard and an electric scooter as part of the prizes.

“Some of the proceeds go to the Chamber of Commerce and the trail fund, which we use to maintain Empire trails and our hiking and biking trails,” Kroetch said. “The rest goes to the Chamber, which we donate to other needy causes like the Spirit Lake Parks and Rec Department.”

While the unlimited design class allowed teams more freedom to construct their cardboard crafts, the limited design class only allowed for two slabs of cardboard, five rolls of duct tape and crossed fingers to get the makeshift boats around the duckie and back to shore.

The Lakeland Junior High team, captained by 12-year-old Jenna Olson, was able to not only make it back to shore but take the victory in its class against the Spirit Lake Police Department.

“We thought it seemed like a really fun event,” Jenna said, flanked by an armada of junior high students who spent two days each of the past few weeks building the Lucky Duck, the name of the boat that also, coincidentally, was the name of the Spirit Award they took home at the end of the day. “We really wanted to do it. All the effort we put into this boat and the teamwork, I really loved that.”

As for the head-to-head match-up, Jenna said she and fellow teammate Adaira Tyler didn’t know if they’d make it back to shore.

“I honestly thought we wouldn’t make it past the duck,” Jenna said. “I actually thought the police would get ahead of us, but they didn’t.”

While the police boat was able to make it back to shore, the Lucky Duck had already dry-docked back on the park grass. Anthony Ghirarduzzi didn’t say whether or not they issued any speeding tickets to their opponents, but the Spirit Lake police officer did say their boat was an experiment that didn’t even get a dry run.

“We made the boat two weeks ago and kept it in the garage until today,” Ghiraduzzi said. “It did pretty well, and everybody had a lot of fun today. It was a great thing for the community.”