While sleeping in and watching cartoons will top some kids' list of activities this summer, Medford retiree Clyde Olson plans to drag his four grandchildren around town, raiding Dumpsters for cardboard and stocking up on the most pool water-resistant duct tape they can find.
Regulars at the city-sponsored Medford Parks and Recreation cardboard boat races, Olson and crew are like dozens of Rogue Valley residents attempting — and thoroughly enjoying — the process of fashioning vessels from old refrigerator boxes, cardboard tubes, duct tape and glue.
With the city of Medford's sixth annual cardboard boat races just around the corner, there's still time to join in. Registration is preferred but not required until race day (July 16). Event sign-in begins at 8 a.m. at Jackson Pool this year.
Lifeguards are on hand the day of the race to accompany boats across the pool, and paddles and life jackets are provided. To register, or for printed tips on building cardboard boats, contact Medford Parks and Recreation at 541-774-2400.
Cardboard-boat construction information online: http://www.ci.medford.or.us/Files/Cardboard%20Boat%20Basics.pdf
Successful boats will make their way July 16 across Medford's Jackson Pool slightly quicker — and taking longer to sink — than other contenders.
Boats and ships vary from pirate galleys and whimsical fish-meet-frigate creations to raft-style crafts Mark Twain might have taken on an adventure.
The idea of cardboard-boat races has been around for decades, with the development in recent years of an almost cult following as more and more families discover the "sport" online. Websites abound with design tips and tricks from seasoned boat builders.
For his part, Olson has little use for finding designs online. For the past three years, Olson's clan has entered a number of boats, all from the imaginations of his four grandchildren: Joey, Shyanne, Gary and Ben, ranging from ages 9 to 14.
"We have a lot of fun doing it, but I don't build very good boats," admits the grandfather.
"Two of the kids I helped got Titanic Award two years in a row," says Olson, indicating the award for "first to sink." Included in his list of vessels commissioned for chlorine water are an aircraft carrier, submarine, pirate ship, monkey and terrapin. Nine-year-old Joey's favorite was the boat fashioned to look like a floating turtle. The submission won "Titanic" two years ago, but the youngest of Clyde's crew was undaunted.
"We get to cut up cardboard and build a boat with pieces of cardboard and tape, but we have to design it on a piece of paper first, so we know what it looks like," says Joey.
"I was the one that was in the turtle boat, and I had to paddle as fast as I could, but it still sank to the bottom and cracked open."
Medford recreation supervisor Sue McKenna says the races began in 2006 and were an instant hit with families often making return attempts for the various awards given out, including Best Design, Best Decorated and First to Sink (aka Titanic). The grand prize is an engraved wooden paddle bestowed upon the winning team.
"It's just a really fun family event where the adults and kids can do a project together and then come out and have the whole family enjoy the event," says McKenna.
"(Olson) is a perfect example that the event brings several generations together."
McKenna says the event makes for plenty of laughter.
"We see all kinds of boats — boats that sink the minute the kids sit on them and boats that do quite well and go pretty fast on the water. We'll have some that sink real slowly and are literally underwater, but the captain is still in them paddling until the boat is no longer moving forward," says McKenna with a laugh.
Cameron Wells, a 14-year-old from Central Point, says first-timers to the event are bound to return. The teen has built boats for the past four years and is even considering a voyage across Lake of the Woods.
"I don't think too many people would understand," says Cameron, "but one of the most favorite things to me in the world is the smell of the water hitting the cardboard and duct tape."
Jenny Woods, mom to Olson's "boat crew," says building cardboard boats is a nonnegotiable part of the family's summer.
"We think it's awesome. It's creative and gives them something to do with their grampa. They get all excited for it and come up with their own ideas," says Woods.
"It's always exciting to cram boats into a minivan with four or five kid and drive over there."
Grampa couldn't agree more.
"The important part is just that we have a lot of fun," he says.
"This is our fourth year, and they sure have a lot of pictures hanging up in their house. We're making some pretty neat memories."