March 24, 2008

Make plans now for annual Splashin' Saturday

by Christi Mathis

CARBONDALE, Ill. — It's a big year, perhaps even of Titanic proportions, for two spring events at Southern Illinois University Carbondale.

This April's 2008 Splashin' Saturday on April 26 marks the 25th anniversary of the Doc Spackman Memorial Triathlon and the 35th anniversary of the Great Cardboard Boat Regatta. Both are popular longtime traditions for many throughout the region, but that's not all there is to this year's event. It's really an action-packed day full of fun for all ages.

Along with the legendary triathlon and cardboard boat race, there will be a variety of family friendly activities, including face-painting for the kids, music, a dunking booth, food galore and much more, said Larry S. Briggs, who along with W. Larry Busch organizes the Great Cardboard Boat Regatta. There's even going to be an aqua-sling contest, with contestants vying for prizes by testing their aim at a target positioned on the lake using a big sling.

The festivities kick off with sign-in at Lake-on-the-Campus Beach between 6:30 and 7:30 a.m. for the triathlon named in honor of the late Robert "Doc" Spackman, nationally recognized physical fitness expert and longtime SIUC athletic trainer. The race includes a 385-yard swim, a five-mile bike race and a two-mile run beginning at 8 a.m. Participants supply all their own equipment.

They'll compete in several age groups, with individual categories including men, women, a wheelchair division, and the youth division for ages 17 and younger with a waiver signed by a parent. Individuals as well as teams of two or three can compete with each team member completing a single leg of the race. Men's, women's and co-recreation teams will compete in the junior category if the combined age is 104 years or less, the senior division for a combined age of 105 or more, or the specialty category of any age. Specialty involves any group from firefighters or ROTC to sports clubs, academic departments and more.

An affiliation with SIUC isn't required of participants. The registration deadline is 4 p.m. April 25 at the Student Recreation Center administration office, with a $15 fee for individuals or $25 for teams. The entry fee is online at Late registration the morning of the event is $5 higher. Winners will garner plaques.

There are four categories for competitors in the cardboard boat regatta. Class I boats are propelled by oars or paddles while paddle wheels, propellers or sails will help the Class II boats motivate. The instant boat class is for those favoring creativity on the fly. Contestants all register at 10 a.m. at the Boat Dock and the registration fee is $10. Those without a prepared craft can try their hand with the instant boat kits, freely given away by lottery drawing. A limited number of the kits, each including cardboard, duct tape and a nail, are available. The final category is the youth competition for kids younger than 12. Trophies and awards go to the top three finishers in each category.

The race, previously seen by more than 100,000 spectators, kicks off at noon. Briggs, associate professor in the School of Art and Design, and Busch, retired professor emeritus in the same school, now direct the fabulous water folly.

"It's a whole lot of fun," Briggs said. He said one never knows who might show up and enter the contest. In recent years, Saluki fans watched basketball player Randal Falker craft a boat shorter than he is, stuff himself inside and then sink well before the finish line, Briggs recalled with a laugh.

Courtesy of the Carbondale Park District, there'll be a race for teeny-tiny boats too. The Dinghy Race entrants will sail in horse troughs while the big boats race on the lake.

Splashin' Saturday is "just pretty much a great fun day" for participants and spectators, Briggs said. It's an alcohol-free, family style event. And, although organizers hope Mother Nature looks kindly on April 26, the fun goes on rain or shine.

For more information about the Doc Spackman Memorial Triathlon contact Kathy Hollister at 618/453-1267 or via e-mail at or check out the Web site To get additional details about the Great Cardboard Boat Regatta contact Briggs at 618/521-5071 or Busch at 618/549-5677.