By LEIGH C. MERRIFIELD
News & Journal Editor

Pictured outside Maple Lake’s clubhouse are winners and contestants in last year’s United Way Regatta.

Harrison County, it’s time to let your creative juices flow!  Start saving your cardboard, buy some duct tape, and put on your thinking caps to devise a cardboard boat for United Way of Harrison County’s 4th Annual Live United Regatta.

United Way of Harrison County’s Executive Director Tina Yoke says the date has been set for September 10th, and for the second consecutive year, this fundraising event will be held at Maple Lake in Bridgeport.

“Last year we had 14 teams participating, and our goal is to grow this year and have 20 teams in the event,” Tina said.  “The Cardboard Boat Regatta is the kickoff event for our 2018 campaign, and since we now have 25 agencies that depend on us for funding, it’s really important to us to increase participation this year.  And as always, we invite residents of area communities to come out and offer their support.  It is always a fun and family-friendly event.”

From the eastern shores of Maryland to the western coast of Oregon – and numerous locales in between – cardboard-crafted boat races have become quite popular events, whether for fundraising purposes or just as a community activity to bring folks together.

“Spectators have time before the race begins to walk around and visit the boats and meet the crew members,” Tina added.  “They are always curious about how inventive teams have been.  Most crews choose some sort of theme and craft their boats around that theme, and many times the participants also dress according to their theme. It is always a colorful display and people marvel at the creativity used preparing these sailing vessels. But probably they get the biggest kick out of the ones that sink, and typically we have a couple of those every year!”

Tom Rhine and Brian Hooten are pictured in their ‘Jaws’ craft; they have won the race three years in a row!

Of course, there are rules that regulate what materials can be used in making the boats.  Mrs. Yoke noted that those regulations haven’t changed much and are available online at www.unitedwayhcwv.org.  Participants can also register online as well.

“We are also seeking sponsorships,” Mrs. Yoke continued.  “Sponsors would pay the registration fee and can even be involved with making the boat; they just don’t want to ride in it.  The United Way can help there by finding participants to race in the regatta.  We ask that potential sponsors call us for details at 304-624-6337.”

Organizing the event this year is Gary Abbate, who resides at Maple Lake, serves on the United Way cabinet and is a volunteer.  He helped with the race last year and says it was actually the first time he had witnessed a cardboard boat race.

“For those who have never seen a cardboard regatta, I highly recommend it,” he said. “It is such a lot of fun to watch and it’s amazing to witness the creativity of the boat designs and the way they dress up for this event. It makes it fun for spectators to watch.”

Abbate said that they have flyers prepared to send out to those who participated last year, to area businesses and schools, encouraging their participation in this fund-raising activity for United Way.

“We would like to see more entries from our local schools and provide the opportunity for a little friendly competition.  Last year Liberty had a boat entry and I have to give a big shout-out to Lincoln High School which had several entries.   These local kids did a really nice job. It is amazing what can be put together with just the three allowed items – cardboard, duct tape and liquid nails.   Teams get very creative!”

According to the 2018 United Way Campaign Chair Charla Nutter, this year’s campaign theme is ‘The Power Of Community – UNITED, We All Win’.

Nutter stated, “I am very excited about this coming year’s campaign.  One of the big things I am stressing this year is increasing awareness of what United Way does in Harrison County and encouraging new volunteers.  I grew up in Salem, and I’m sure it’s true in many communities that people take an interest in their own individual communities, and we may forget that we are all ‘one’ in Harrison County and what we raise here, stays here.  Since we have added several new agencies that are now being funded through United Way of Harrison County, we really need the support to help those living right in our midst.”

She added that United Way leaders respect the fact that times are tough for many people, so they have not increased their fund-raising goal this year; it will remain at $850,000, which still will require lots of hard work and generous support from area donors.

Nutter concluded, “We had a great event in the Spring. Shinnston did a wonderful job creating and supporting a bocce tournament at Ferguson Park.  It helped in our quest to raise awareness for United Way, and we would like to see that kind of spirit and support growing throughout the county in other locales.  Our many agencies help numerous folks in countless ways throughout our county, and funding all of these agencies is important.  We challenge ourselves every year to come up with events that can help us raise both awareness and funding and have them be ‘fun’ events.  The regatta on September 10th will get us started this year, and we hope for great race participation and spectator interest and support.”

There are five divisions: Junior Division for ages 13 to 17; Adult Division – for ages 18 and up; Family Division with no age requirements except that an adult/parent must be in the boat; Business Division; and a Non-Profit Division.

A winner in each division will be named and of course an award will be given for the most epic sink!  Attendees can vote for the “People’s Choice” award by purchasing a ticket as a vote ($1 per ticket) for their favorite sailing vessel.

On race day, My Mother’s Daughter will be offering concessions such as hot dogs, pulled pork sandwiches, ice cream, sno cones and drinks.  They will donate portion of their sales to the United Way of Harrison County.

Collin Rose from the SKY Morning Show will act as emcee for the event and will provide music throughout the afternoon.

Mark your calendars for the September 10th Cardboard Regatta at Maple Lake.  Race crews need to check in prior to the race; the race gets underway at 1:30 p.m.   Demonstrate the “Power of Community” by showing your support for the United Way of Harrison County!