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Break out the craft supplies: This regatta in Smithfield will feature cardboard boats.

Expect to see boats like this one on the Neuse River in Smithfield on July 14.
Expect to see boats like this one on the Neuse River in Smithfield on July 14. The Tribune

Here's the challenge: Build a boat that can float some 300 yards down the Neuse River in Smithfield.

A piece of cake, right?

Well, maybe not.

For its first-ever River Rat Regatta on July 14, the Smithfield Parks and Recreation Department is challenging boat builders to craft two-person vessels made only of cardboard, duct tape and glue.

And no, you can't wrap the boat in the duct tape, you can't use carpet tubes as pontoons, and you can't use cardboard that has been treated to make it waterproof. Think instead of standard issue corrugated cardboard — the kind your fridge or stove came in.

Oh, and the paddles for the boat must be made of cardboard, tape and glue too.

"The emphasis is on the fun-filled process of turning discarded cardboard boxes into floating boats," the town says.

Gary Johnson is director of the Smithfield Parks and Recreation Department, which is staging the regatta as a christening of sorts for the town's upgraded boat ramp on the Neuse River.

Johnson says he's no engineer, so he can't predict how river-worthy cardboard boats will be. "A Google and YouTube search, however, garnered many, many results from people who have participated in similar events — some with success, some not," he said.

That's why the regatta, in addition to saluting the top three finishers and the best decorated boat, will also present the Titanic Award — for the most memorable sinking. Note to the boaters: Life jackets are required.

Johnson said the regatta was born during discussions about how to introduce the newly renovated boat ramp to the public. "We wanted to hold a ribbon-cutting ceremony and also hold a special event, not only to bring attention to the boat ramp but to the resource we have with the river," he said.

The idea for a regatta of cardboard boats came from Town Manager Michael Scott. "Parks and Recreation loved the idea and began researching the possibilities," Johnson said. "It has been done in other areas of the country to great success."

The regatta will launch at 10 a.m. July 14. Check-in will begin at 9; the ribbon-cutting ceremony will be at 9:30. For details, including rules and the registration form, go to smithfield-nc.com/page/article/382.

The town isn't requiring registration in advance, so Johnson can't say how many boats will be at the regatta, though he knows of five under construction.

"We are excited about the event, and from what I have heard, it has generated a lot of excitement with others," Johnson said.

Food and craft vendors will be on hand after the regatta, and the band Bad Decisions will perform at noon at the corner of Market and South Front streets.

Scott Bolejack: 919-829-4629, @ScottBolejack
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