KINGSTON – The sounds of splashing and laughter mixed with shouting and cheers from the banks of the Kishwaukee River on Saturday afternoon as teams from across DeKalb County competed in the ninth annual Kingston Cardboard Boat Regatta.
Six trophies – for accomplishments such as most pizzaz, fastest individual time, flamboyance, most people in a boat and winning a head-to-head race – lined a picnic bench as the first of 11 boats embarked on a 100-foot dash to a buoy upstream and back.
Event coordinator Taunya Fischer said in addition to the single-boat event, each team was entered in the “Head-to-Head” competition – a no-holds-barred race between each of the boats. She said each team could do whatever was necessary to keep other teams from winning the race.
“I think everybody loves the head-to-head,” Fischer said. “It’s all friendly competition.”
Each team crafting a boat for the annual competition must adhere to several rules, Fischer said. The boats must be made entirely out of cardboard – no Styrofoam or other materials are allowed. Teams may use glue or other sealants only on the edges and seams of the boats to keep them from capsizing. Despite this, two boats – “Jesus Freaks” and “Cray” – sunk and were eligible for the Titanic trophy, which is awarded to the best sinking boat.
There is also no limit to the number of rowers a boat may have, Fischer said, adding that in previous years, the regatta has had anywhere from one to 10 rowers in a boat. Additionally, the boat with the most rowers is given the Kishwaukee Ferry award. This year, Fischer said, the award went to “Jesus Freaks,” the team that also won the Titanic award.
Fischer said it’s not uncommon for well-made boats to compete in the regatta year after year. One such boat, the "Cog Mobile," has competed in the regatta since the beginning. This year, the Cog Mobile won the head-to-head competition.
Kingston resident Jack Fischer, who piloted the boat this year along with his 15-year-old daughter, Carly, said the regatta is “always fun,” and he intends to return next year.
“It’s been really neat to see [the regatta] grow year after year,” he said. “We used to have one bleacher, and now we pretty much line the entire bank.”
The "Dragon Boat" – a boat modeled after an ancient viking ship – and "RCJ" also have competed for a number of years, Fischer said.
First-time contestants Jason and Kurt Harjung said they “had a blast” Saturday.
“This was on my bucket list,” said 66-year-old Kurt Harjung, laughing. “I’ve always wanted to do this. I was the oldest guy rowing.”
He said their boat, "Angry Jay," sank during the head-to-head event after taking on water.
“We’re starting construction on next year’s boat [Sunday],” said Jason Harjung, chuckling.
The crew of the "Sunday Prophet," led by Garrett Sonntag, also had a fantastic time during their second regatta.
“It’s good, friendly competition,” Sonntag said. “It’s great just being here with friends, hanging out, maybe some smack talking.”
Natalie Schmit, who along with her group "Divas of the Kish" won the "Flamboyancy" award, also enjoyed the competition, although she said for her, rowing against the current of the river was difficult.
“It’s hard to row,” she said. “Your arms get tired."
Awards and winners
"RCJ" – Fleet of the Fleet (Fastest individual time)
"Duck Dynasty" – Pirates of Pizzaz award
"Jesus Freaks" – Titanic, Kishwaukee Ferry awards
"Divas of the Kish" – Flamboyancy award
"Cog Mobile" – Head-to-Head award