Glen Ellyn regatta fan favorite offers tips
First, the bad news.
The Chinchilla family, a fan favorite at the Lake Ellyn cardboard boat regatta, will not race this Saturday. The seven-member crew went out with a bang -- a roar, really -- when they built a 25-foot-tall green Brachiosaurus aboard their homemade vessel last year.
The dinosaur was an iconic sight on Lake Ellyn's unforgiving waters, and "Brach" earned the Glen Ellyn family yet another trophy to add to the collection they display in their home library.
But after accepting the Lake Ellyn Queen Award for best use of cardboard, the Chinchilla siblings announced they would hang up their sails for 2017.
They started racing with their dad when they were kids almost a decade ago, and now they're all grown up with busy schedules.
"Several of our fans were a little bit disappointed because they've come to expect a certain level of quality and spectacular boats from us," Craig Chinchilla Jr., 19, said.
But if it's any consolation to regatta regulars -- the good news! -- Chinchilla is letting us in on a few secrets to the family's success.
They're a competitive and creative bunch, and they've honed considerable skill. In nine years of building cardboard boats, the Chinchillas always have managed to keep their crafts above water.
For boat construction, the park district provides 20 sheets of corrugated cardboard and prohibits epoxy glue. Crews can tape only the seams and joints, not the entire boat.
Painting all of the layers is "very time-consuming and expensive" -- and not something Craig and his crewmates would recommend.
Instead, the family covered triple-walled cardboard in several coats of waterproof wood glue thinned out with a little water. That process leaves a "tight bond," Chinchilla said.
And with that kind of heavy-duty cardboard, "you're going to need a jigsaw."
The Chinchillas also are not procrastinators. Last year, they put in a solid two weeks of "nonstop building."
Per family tradition, the crew would enjoy a post-race pizza at Barone's in downtown Glen Ellyn. The inspiration for Brach was born when Chinchilla got a restaurant goody bag with a plastic toy dinosaur.
"The idea caught on right then and there," Chinchilla said.
As for racing, teams must navigate a 200-foot course marked by buoys on the neighborhood lake. A total of 30 boats are registered to sail in three categories: youth (ages 9 to 17), adults (18 and older) and families.
"In the end, the adrenaline rush, just the thrill of it, you forget about the cold water and all that," Chinchilla said.
He's looking forward to coming back as a spectator on dry land and has tips for soaking in the day, too: get to the park early, take pictures of the creative boats and grab a spot near the Lake Ellyn dock.
The day includes a Picnic in the Park featuring food trucks that will return to Lake Ellyn park for a second year. Proceeds from the fundraising picnic will support the village's Fourth of July committee, a group of volunteers who will stage the parade and fireworks Tuesday.
"The response from residents and guests that attended said it was fantastic, so this year we're increasing the variety of food that's going to be available by adding several new trucks to our culinary mix," committee member Jim Raisins told village trustees earlier this month.
Chinchilla left open the possibility that the family will sail again. But they've bonded over something that lasts longer than their trophies.
"Those memories, since we've been doing it for so many years, just live on," he said.
If you goWhat: Lake Ellyn Cardboard Regatta
When: Food truck picnic from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, July 1; boat races start at noon
Where: Lake Ellyn Park, 645 Lenox Road, Glen Ellyn
Cost: Free for spectators