Dinosaur boat is big hit at Glen Ellyn regatta

Technically, it's extinct but the Brachiosaurus entry in the Lake Ellyn Cardboard Boat Regatta seemed oblivious to its non-status Saturday.

Gliding regally above the sweaty, panting rowers, the massive green dinosaur was an instant favorite, generating cheers of "Brach!" from kids.

Along with the Jurassic-era contestant, the regatta featured 35 other boats made entirely from cardboard, including a pirate ship, Viking vessel, and a "S.S. Trump" yacht emblazoned with a "Make GE Great Again" slogan riffing on the Republican presidential nominee.

"Everyone makes a T-Rex. We wanted to make something unique," Brach captain Jonathan Chinchilla, 16, of Glen Ellyn said. "Not too many people know a Brachiosaurus (by name), but when you see it, it's kind of iconic."

The annual event, organized by the Glen Ellyn Park District, is a splashy way to kick off the village Fourth of July festivities, but the rules are strict.

Crews must stick to the 20 sheets of corrugated cardboard provided by the park district and high-tech glues are banned.

That was no problem for "Brach." "We've got a nice, really sturdy pontoon base," Chinchilla summed up. "We also have a water-dynamic hull to slice through the water."

Nearby, as Glen Ellyn Masonic Lodge's entry "Independence" awaited its turn to race, James Hommowun explained he'd applied the Titanic's principles of watertight compartments with better success to his pirate-themed ship.

"If any of these (cardboard) boxes breaks, we still have more flotation in the back," said Hommowun, clad in a Captain Hook-worthy outfit. "It's worked for four years. Duct tape holds the universe together."

Racers comprised three categories: adults, youth ages 9 to 17, and businesses and agencies. On hand were many families who bonded over cardboard, tape and paint.

"We did it as a father-son project," Jim Knasel of Wheaton said of "X-Wing," a Star Wars fighter jet/boat he constructed with son Matthew, 11.

At the boat launch, Glen Ellyn Gators swim team members Lilly Carroll, 10, Katie Montana, 9, Maggie Fischer, 10, and Sarah Paradis, 10, excitedly waited their turn.

When asked how long it took to build her crew's GE Gator alligator boat, Lilly said jokingly "40 minutes," then clarified "no, we've been working on it for months."

After a near-collision with a swan boat, the girls successfully finished the course.

But not everyone was as successful. Brothers Zach and Evan Clauss' bright-red boat, "Brick," hardly hit the water before it took on water.

Zach Clauss, who will study engineering in the fall at Missouri University of Science and Technology assessed the damage.

"It's our sixth year, but our worst year," he said. "This one was too narrow. It's more of a one-man boat."

Winners of the regatta included: Adult First Place, "Independence;" Adult Second Place, "Brach;" Youth First Place, "Loki;" Youth Second Place, "USS Lightning;" SS Saturation Award, "Boat Fwends;" We Look Good Award, "Crayola 7;" and Lake Ellyn Queen Award, "Brach."

  The "S.S. Trump" boat powers through the water during the Lake Ellyn Cardboard Boat Regatta in Glen Ellyn. Daniel White/
  The "Crayola 7" captained by Jessica Mills starts paddling in front of a gallery of onlookers during the Lake Ellyn Cardboard Boat Regatta in Glen Ellyn. Daniel White/
  Brian Paratis and Patrick Carroll, both of Glen Ellyn, carry and prepare to launch the "GE Gator" in the Lake Ellyn Cardboard Boat Regatta in Glen Ellyn. Daniel White/
  James Hommowun of Glen Ellyn prepares his boat "Independence" for the Lake Ellyn Cardboard Boat Regatta. Daniel White/
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