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posted: 7/26/2012 12:58 PM

Algonquin cardboard boat races promote cancer awareness at fest

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  • Russel Cardelli of Algonquin, 21, earned first place for Team Cardelli, in the Cardboard Boat Regatta at last year's Algonquin Founders' Days Festival.

      Russel Cardelli of Algonquin, 21, earned first place for Team Cardelli, in the Cardboard Boat Regatta at last year's Algonquin Founders' Days Festival.
    Kristin Ackmann | Staff Photographer

By Hailey Czarnecki

Each year the Algonquin Founders' Days Festival entertains the crowds with a boat race. The boats are made of cardboard and duct tape and contestants are given an hour to create them. Then, they race down the Fox River and back for a cash reward.

For the 15th anniversary of the Cardboard Boat Regatta, the event will promote the American Cancer Society and breast cancer awareness. The society will have a booth set up for donations, but a new tactic was implemented to really show the audience this event cares -- pink duct tape.

Don Ericson and Ericson Marine have sponsored and organized this event since it started. Ericson said the event relies on sponsors.

Steve Riggio is a big time donor and that's exactly who decided to use pink tape, Ericson said.

Riggio started donating the tape when the event began. Back then, there were only 40 boats racing, Riggio said, and the expense wasn't as high. Now he will be spending three times as much for the pink tape and has to buy enough for 120 teams, Ericson said.

It was never about the amount, though, Riggio said. "I raised three daughters in Algonquin ... it's really my way of saying thank you to the community," he said.

Riggio came up with the pink tape and breast cancer awareness idea last year, but it was too late to generate the materials. This year, he started buying the tape in January. It was a feel good thing for him, he said.

"What better venue to show children there's a disease out there ... and to get these little minds thinking," Riggio said.

He sees the event as an opportunity to educate children. He said you never know who these kids will grow up to be and if the next Albert Einstein is asking questions now, they could change the world.

The idea came out of no where and Riggio ran with it.

"It is always good to make people aware this disease is prevalent," he said.

Riggio has participated in the boat races in the past and said it's one of his favorite events in the area. He's even cutting a business trip in Europe short to make it to the event.

"I can't wait to see it ... it's such a cool family thing to do," Riggio said. "You see nothing but water splashing and boats going all over the place,"

Ericson collects 18,000 square feet of cardboard and Riggio donates 350 roles of tape. Ericson said the tape could be rolled out to Schaumburg and back.

Each team is provided with 150 square feet of cardboard, three rolls of duct tape and a Stanley knife.

"They have such a great time building it," Ericson said. "My favorite part of it is watching the enthusiasm of the kids taking part of it," he said.

This year, the event will include two heats, one for children ages 13 and younger and one for adults 13 and older. The cash prizes are donated by the Algonquin State Bank for first-, second- and third-place winners.

The event starts at 4 p.m. Thursday, July 26, at the Riverfront Park, Algonquin. Teams can call (847) 658-7622 to register for the event or show up early to sign in.

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