Cardboard boat races to set sail in Heber Springs

By Kayla Baugh Published July 16, 2017 at 12:00 a.m.
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Ben Purtle, left, and Preston Rogers paddle in a boat sponsored by Irby Co., electrical distributors, during the 2016 World Championship Cardboard Boat Races on Greers Ferry Lake in Heber Springs. The 2017 competition will be July 29.

HEBER SPRINGS — The World Championship Cardboard Boat Races encourage families to sink, sail and play in the sand.

This year’s race theme is DC versus Marvel, and participants are challenged to build boats that represent their favorite comics.

The races will take place July 29 at Sandy Beach on Greers Ferry Lake in Heber Springs.

Julie Murray, executive director of the Heber Springs Area Chamber of Commerce, said the races attract people from around the country and bring statewide attention to the city.

“It is a fun, family-friendly event and appeals to all ages,” Murray said.

According to information provided by Murray, all boats must be built out of cardboard. Metal, wood and motors are not allowed.

Boats may be waterproofed with varnish, paint or polyurethane.

Contestants will have four minutes to complete the race, and awards will be presented in four categories.

The Pride of the Fleet Award will be presented based on engineering details and innovative design, as well as how creative and elaborate the boat is.

The Captain’s Award will be presented based on team costumes, involvement with the crowd and team spirit throughout the competition.

The Titanic Award will go to the boat that sinks the most dramatically, though the boat must float at least 50 feet beyond the starting line.

Awards will also be presented for timed races, with an adult division for participants ages 13 and older, and a children’s division for participants ages 12 and younger.

Registration costs $55 for adults and children who participate alone or in pairs, and $60 for teams of three to eight in both divisions.

Children younger than 5 and pets will not be allowed in racing boats.

According to the chamber website, boat registration will begin at 8 a.m. July 29, and races will begin at 10 a.m.

At 10 a.m., the Ron Carmack Memorial Volleyball Tournament will take place.

There will be a $20 registration fee, and trophies will be awarded to first- and second-place teams, Murray said.

A children’s treasure dig will start at 10:30 a.m. for children 12 and younger, followed by the World Championship Watermelon Eating Contest at 11 a.m.

Murray said around 5,000 people typically show up to the event on land, and more than 2,000 people by boat.

Free live entertainment by Stillwater Hardy will be provided after the races at the Dam Site Marina at 6 p.m.

Steve Castleberry, a volunteer, said he has helped with the races for 20 years.

“Heber gets to share its personality with the world,” Castleberry said.

“Boating and fishing attract people from around the world. Our volunteers are reminded of that blessing in the smiles of those who visit during the races,” he said.

Helping seems natural, and it is an honor to serve, he said.

Castleberry said each year at the races is special, and everyone has a different reason for participating.

“Some people enter the races to win; others just hope to make it across the course. Others know they’ll sink halfway through but do it anyway. They all have one thing in common — they have a blast doing it.”

For more information, rules or to register, contact the Heber Springs Area Chamber of Commerce at (501) 362- 2444 or

Staff writer Kayla Baugh can be reached at (501) 244-4307 or

None Kayla Baugh can be reached at 501-244-4307 or

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