, Muskogee, OK

Local News

August 25, 2013

Cardboard boat regatta swells

Ethan Shoemake had a foolproof plan for winning the sixth annual River Rumba and Cardboard Boat Regatta on Saturday.

“My plan is to go fast and don’t sink,” Shoemake said.

Shoemake, 9, was racing for the Porum 4H Club in one of 45 boats participating in the event, which took place at Three Forks Harbor and drew a crowd of almost 2,000 spectators.

See more photos from River Rumba and buy prints at

Kurt Watson, president of the Muskogee Exchange Club, said the event just keeps getting bigger each year.

“We have almost a 20 percent increase in boats entered this year,” Watson said. “Each year it grows and each year we try to get more people involved. It’s a great family event, and people work hard on these boats, some spend up to 500 hours on them.”

Craftsmanship and showmanship were both on display Saturday as the boats were launched from the starting line. Some boats were blazing fast, Georgia Pacific’s “Wave Wiper” and Grace Episcopal’s “SS Holy Rower,” were two of the quickest.

While speed drew cheers, sinking vessels often got the most attention.

Bailey Speake and Sidnee Spencer, Muskogee High School cheerleaders, piloted the “Green Goblin” almost halfway through the course before it fell apart, leaving them both floating in the water.

Speake, the captain of the boat, said she knew they were in trouble before they ever left the starting point.

“When we got in it, there was already water in the bottom,” she said. “We had to bail out when the water got so high we couldn’t even sit in it anymore.”

Spencer admitted she was more concerned with her safety than their boat’s condition.

“I thought I was sinking with it,” Spencer said.

The events of the day centered around the race, but there were several other attractions for those in attendance. Giant inflatables were furnished, and the concessions offered plenty of choices for those who were hungry and thirsty.

Watson said all of the proceeds from the event are channeled right back into Muskogee charities.

“There are about 65 Exchange Club members who all dedicate a lot of time to this,” he said. “We give away a lot of awards and encourage everyone to come out and participate.”

All manner of watercraft were entered in the event, from a giant tank to mechanized crafts replete with steering systems and pedals. The boats were cleverly named as well, with monikers such as “The Dashing Dolphin” and “Cirrhosis River.”

Brian Hudson, who was paddling for Max’s Garage’s “Full Steam Ahead,” said he was enjoying his first year in the contest.

“We haven’t tested the boat yet, but we’re going to do great,” Hudson said. “We have our captain and two paddlers on each side, and we’re going to be careful around the corners. I like events like this because they bring out crowds and bind the community together.”

Reach Travis Sloat at (918) 684-2908 or

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