Cardboard is usually associated with the more utilitarian aspects of life, like storing old files.
But Fox Lake's Cardboard Cup Regatta, held Sunday afternoon at Lakefront Park, proved that the combination of cardboard, water and sunshine -- with the addition of some crayon and marker decorations -- can add up to an enjoyable afternoon.
This year's 15th annual regatta had pageantry and a little buffoonery, but it also presented some entertaining sport.
For a $30 registration fee, entrants received cardboard, duct tape and a box cutter. The rest was up to them.
Amy Serafin, Fox Lake's parks and recreation coordinator, said the regatta draws contestants from around the Chicago area.
"Every year it grows," said Serafin, adding that 27 boats competed last year. A final tally had not yet been tabulated for this year.
This year, the event also offered food vendors, a bounce house for the children and a DJ blasting the latest in 1980s music.
The competition has restrictions. Participants have to sign a waiver. And no one can enter the water without a life vest, even though the water is only a foot deep.
The secret to avoid capsizing your cardboard vessel?
"The more duct tape the better," Serafin said. "I find that the boats that don't sink as fast are very much covered in duct tape."
Some of the crafts were notable for their creativity.
Rich Morphew of Fox Lake, sporting a Viking hat, and his merry crew rode in a Viking ship that seemed as big as a real boat. He said he combined the allotted cardboard with watermelon bins from Jewel and about four or five rolls of duct tape. The boat was then covered with brown latex paint for a rubbery coating.
Robby Schira, 8, of Ringwood, was inspired by Angry Birds and had a cardinal at the front of his red boat and a pig at the rear.
"We love watching. The whole boat race is fun," Schira's mother, Marina said.
One of the boats had very little decoration on the outside but plenty on the inside. It was paddled by the Grant Township Queens, pageant winners, replete with tiaras, who had a huge cheering section. They included Little Miss Grant Township Jennie Woodruff, Junior Miss Grant Township Gabriela Schoenberg, Teen Miss Grant Township Jessie Burdett and Miss Grant Township Bethani Jacobsen. Their boat was the result of a close collaboration between dads and daughters.
Allan Jacobsen, father of Miss Grant Township, said he also had a blast with the parents,
Added his 17-year-old daughter: "I don't really get a lot of time with my dad. He's always working, and I'm always at school, so it's really nice to work with him."
The boaters proved quite skillful, with seemingly nary a sinker.
Amy Guanci of Spring Grove cheered on as her daughters Katie, 8, and Amelia, 10, as they paddled in their "steamboat," replete with a drawing of a paddle wheel.
Both were greeted by a happy mom, who praised their teamwork.
Alex Masterton, 12, was not so lucky. He sank like a stone through the bottom of his military patrol boat.
"First time I ever sunk," he said.
When asked what the experience was like, he said, "Wet. That's all I got to say about it."