April 22, 2008

Splashin' Saturday features regatta, triathlon

by Christi Mathis

CARBONDALE, Ill. — Splashin' Saturday, set for April 26, brings together two classic events in one fun-filled day at Southern Illinois University Carbondale.

It's the 25th anniversary of the Doc Spackman Memorial Triathlon and the 35th anniversary of the Great Cardboard Boat Regatta. Both are very popular traditions for the region and the big boat race has even garnered worldwide attention through the years. Splashin' Saturday is tons of fun for the whole family with face-painting, music, a dunking booth, concessions and more.

"I hope people take advantage of being a participator or spectator in these long-standing events at SIUC," said Kathy L. Hollister, assistant director of Recreational Sports and Services at SIUC. "I mean, this is 60 years of fun!"

The triathlon named in honor of the late Robert "Doc" Spackman, nationally recognized physical fitness expert and longtime SIUC athletic trainer, begins with sign-in at the Lake-on-the-Campus Beach from 6:30 to 7:30 a.m. The event features a 385-yard swim, a five-mile bike race and a two-mile run, all starting at 8 a.m.

With several age groups, individuals can compete in a number of categories including men, women, wheelchair and youth. There are men's, women's and co-recreation team contests for junior and senior divisions and a specialty category for specific groups. Winners garner plaques.

SIUC's first big cardboard boat event was actually a class project conceived by Richard Archer, professor of art and design, for a final class project. The challenge of creating a seaworthy vessel from corrugated cardboard was so intriguing the event quickly grew to become an annual event bringing together the University and Southern Illinois. Now organized by Larry S. Briggs, associate professor in the School of Art and Design, and W. Larry Busch, professor emeritus in the same school, it's drawn more than 100,000 spectators, emulators worldwide, and widespread media attention.

Those venturing to the campus lake will see boats of all shapes and sizes, some propelled by oars or paddles and others by paddle wheels, sails or propellers, all attempting to complete the circuit around the lake. Some contestants work long and hard on their one-of-a-kind watercraft while others wait until that morning to join the fun in the "instant boat" class. There's a youth competition as well.

Just how well do pieces of cardboard, duct-taped together, float when carrying one or more people, sometimes in costume? Sometimes, it's an amazing testament to ingenuity and luck. Other times, well, let's just say the sinking feeling some competitors experience adds to the hilarity of the day and just might garner them a prize – the Titanic prize, that is.

The little ones can have their very own race too. The Carbondale Park District is sponsoring a Dinghy Race allowing kids to stay on dry land as their tiny boats sail. An aqua-sling contest is sure to draw a crowd too, as people try their hand throwing at hit a lake target with a giant sling.

A special treat is in store this year. It's a bonus that will make it easier than ever to participate in the various events dotting the University campus and the Carbondale community that day. Activities Saturday include the SIUC Civil Service Council's flea market at the Arena parking lot, the Southern Illinois Dance Company in Concert at Furr Auditorium at Pulliam Hall, a children's museum program at the SIUC Museum, the Fifth Annual Mariachi Poetry Night at the Dunn-Richmond Economic Development Center and the Southern Illinois Irish Festival and Celtic Fair.

Hollister said a tram will be running Saturday with stops set for the Campus Boat Dock, Evergreen Terrace family housing and Turley Park. Check online at www.siu.edu/rss for complete Splashin' Saturday information, including tram schedules and details.